Amnesty annual report: 2022 marked by fleeing and protests

Amnesty Annual Report
Amnesty International speaks of an “unprecedented refugee movement”. (Source: IMAGO / epd)

Last year, more than 100 million people worldwide were fleeing their homes. There were also large protest movements in many countries. This was reported by the human rights organization Amnesty International in its annual report published on Tuesday, which documents the human rights situation in 156 countries. The organization calls on governments to strengthen human rights and hold those responsible for war crimes and human rights abuses accountable.

In 2022, people in many parts of the world marched for their rights. For example, in Iran or Peru. Governments have responded with repression, he said. According to the report, security forces used unlawful force against demonstrators in 85 of the 156 countries examined by Amnesty. In 25 countries, they even used lethal weapons.

The organization also documented arbitrary arrests of activists in 79 countries. In addition, the right to peaceful protest was restricted in 29 states.

Protesters killed in Iran

One example is what has happened in Iran. Protests have been taking place there since the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022. According to Amnesty, more than 22,000 people – including many children and adolescents (in German) – have been arbitrarily arrested since then. People have also been shot at close range during the demonstrations, it said. Others have been abducted, tortured, and sentenced to long prison sentences in unfair trials.

The regime has also sentenced people to death in connection with the protests, with at least four people already executed (in German). Currently, 14 others are facing execution.

Overall, the number of state killings in Iran in 2022 increased from the previous year. Authorities used death sentences as a “means of political repression,” the 400-plus-page report said.

Amnesty criticized the judiciary in Saudi Arabia for also imposing death sentences “following grossly unfair trials.” In March 2022, authorities had executed 81 people in a single day (in German).

In Russia, peaceful protests against the war were dispersed using excessive force. According to Amnesty, more than 19,400 people were arrested, including media workers who had been covering the protests.

Markus N. Beeko, secretary general of Amnesty International in Germany, commented (in German), “Those who march against oppression and suffering need public support and political pressure from governments.” He said this also includes Germany and the European Union banning the export of biometric surveillance technologies. After all, he said, countries like Iran and Russia use such technologies to “identify and prosecute peaceful protesters.”

War crimes documented in 20 countries

Amnesty International also reports an “unprecedented movement of refugees,” saying 103 million people worldwide were on the run last year. They fled violent conflict and war crimes, human rights abuses and because they are being deprived of their livelihoods.

On a positive note, Amnesty highlights that EU countries have sheltered people fleeing Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine. “This showed that the EU, as one of the world’s wealthiest associations of states, was perfectly capable of taking in large numbers of people seeking protection and giving them access to important resources such as healthcare, education services and housing,” the organization says. However, it criticizes the treatment of Ukrainian refugees as being “fundamentally” different from the treatment experienced by those seeking protection from other regions of the world. For example, people were pushed back across land and sea borders, sometimes with the use of violence.

On the African continent, as well, millions of people have been driven from their homes by conflicts or the consequences of the climate crisis. In Somalia alone, 1.8 million people have been affected.

For the first time, the Amnesty report also includes statistics on war crimes and crimes against humanity. The organization collected evidence of these crimes in 20 of the 156 countries studied. In Ukraine, for example, the Russian army proceeded with attacks on residential areas and the use of banned cluster munitions.

In Ethiopia, government forces and other armed groups carried out mass killings as well as targeted attacks on civilians, according to Amnesty. Civilians and civilian objects were also attacked in Myanmar.

Beeko stated, “Those responsible for war crimes and human rights abuses must be held accountable. Governments must strengthen international law and the international human rights structure to do so.”

In Afghanistan, he said, Taliban members have executed civilians in what are also “clearly” war crimes.

Amnesty also criticized the “massive” repression of women’s and girls’ rights in the country. For example, girls were not allowed to attend secondary schools even in 2022. By the end of the year, the Taliban had also banned women from receiving higher education. Many families had also curtailed the rights of women and girls of their own accord after the Taliban announced it would hold male family members accountable for violations committed by their female relatives.

Governments restricted freedom of expression

The Taliban had also restricted media freedom. Media workers critical of the regime faced arbitrary arrests and other reprisals. The Taliban also used “excessive and unnecessary force” against demonstrators. Some of those arrested were tortured.

However, the oppression of dissidents and members of civil society was also evident in other countries in 2022. In Russia, for example, any criticism of the war in Ukraine was prevented by law. In Myanmar, dozens of media professionals were arrested, and independent media were banned. In Mali, the authorities also imposed temporary media bans.

In Turkey, human rights activists, media workers and opposition figures were put on trial. Amnesty has called the charges “contrived.” Parliament also passed a new law on the “spread of disinformation” (in German) that forces platforms to delete content and hand over user data.

The government in Egypt had released hundreds of people detained for political reasons ahead of the COP27 world climate conference in November. However, according to Amnesty, during the same period “three times as many people were arbitrarily detained for expressing criticism or being considered dissenters.” These included people who had called for protests during the conference.

A specialized criminal court in Saudi Arabia sentenced at least 15 people to long prison sentences for expressing their opinions on Twitter and elsewhere.

Demand for reform of UN Security Council

However, Amnesty International also criticized the human rights situation in Germany, saying that the lack of an independent complaints’ mechanism at the federal and state levels continued to hinder investigations into allegations of abuse against the police. In addition, the new assembly law in North Rhine-Westphalia disproportionately restricts freedom of assembly.

In light of increasing human rights violations worldwide, Amnesty calls for the strengthening and further development of international institutes and systems. To this end, governments must fully fund UN human rights mechanisms, support the work of international courts and consistently implement their rulings. The organization also calls for reform of the UN Security Council. In many conflicts, the council has been unable to take effective action, it said.

“War crimes, flight and protest show that it is now necessary to help the law and human rights gain greater international respect. We must hold our governments accountable in this regard,” Beeko said. (js)