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Thursday, May 12, 2011, 7:01 PM (EST)
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Amnesty International Unveils Global Report on Human Rights and Urges Lawmakers to Invest in Development, Support Cyber-activists/Internet Freedom
(Washington, D.C.) – As Amnesty International (AI) launched its annual assessment of human rights worldwide, the U.S. section of the world's largest human rights organization urged the U.S. Congress to support reform efforts across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by fully funding the president’s FY12 International Affairs Budget request of $61.5 billion. That relatively small investment would have an enormous ripple effect in promoting freedom and stability abroad by funding civilian-led programs that help alleviate extreme poverty, support democratic institutions, and advance the rule of law and otherwise promote development. The International Affairs Budget accounts for just over 1% of the entire federal budget.
"For years, the United States has been on shaky ground with its human rights credentials," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). "Long-standing abuses in the so-called war on terror, coupled with President Obama's embrace of most of former President Bush’s policies, have greatly compromised U.S. leadership on the world stage. As the Arab Spring unfolds, accelerated by social networking, the United States has the chance to get on the right side of history and support the building of societies where governments are accountable, human rights are respected and protected, and people live with dignity. Now is the time to sow the seeds of freedom and prove that the United States has not completely abdicated its purported human rights leadership."
To secure greater rights and freedoms across the MENA region, Amnesty International also called on the Obama administration to step up its efforts to promote expanded and unrestricted access to the Internet and forcefully condemn other governments’ efforts to undermine Internet freedom; amplify its ongoing efforts to ensure that women fully participate in the re-formulating of new governments; provide strong backing for the prosecution of war criminals at the International Criminal Court; and advocate for human rights defenders who are risking their lives.
The State of the World's Human Rights and Top 5 list are released as the organization commemorates its 50th anniversary. The organization's global campaigns uniting concerned individuals to act in concert to protect human rights have resulted in freedom for tens of thousands of political prisoners, a near reversal in the number of countries conducting executions and the adoption of major international treaties to protect human rights. Despite this progress, great challenges remain, the report finds.
The 2011 State of the World's Human Rights documents abuses in 157 countries and concludes that while the human rights revolution now stands on the threshold of historic change, entrenched powers are using any means necessary to thwart them. Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General, said, "Courageous people, led largely by youth, are standing up and speaking out in the face of bullets, beatings, tear gas and tanks. This bravery – combined with new technology that is helping activists to outflank and expose government suppression of free speech and peaceful protest – is sending a signal to repressive governments that their days are numbered. The international community must seize the opportunity for change and ensure that 2011 is not a false dawn for human rights."
The report documents torture and other ill-treatment in at least 98 countries, specific restrictions on free speech in at least 89 countries, reports on unfair trials in at least 54 countries and highlights cases of prisoners of conscience in at least 48 countries.
Despite serious failures of justice in many countries last year, many developments revealed progress. Those include: the steady retreat of the death penalty; key improvements in maternal healthcare, including in Indonesia and Sierra Leone; and the bringing to justice of some of those responsible for human rights crimes under past military regimes in Latin America.
Amnesty International's annual report also highlights:
- deteriorating human rights conditions for activists in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine;
- spiraling violence in Nigeria;
- an escalating crisis posed by Maoist armed insurgencies in central and north-east India;
- growing threats to Indigenous peoples in the Americas;
- growing willingness by European states to return people to places where they ris persecution.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights covers the period January – December 2010. Global and regional experts are available for analysis and comment.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
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For more information please visit www.amnestyusa.org.