Amnesty Annual Report: Human Rights Increasingly Under Pressure Worldwide

Amnesty sign
In the report, Amnesty also criticizes that the global trade of spy software has not been prevented. (Source: IMAGO / epd)

The rule of law and human rights have not been more threatened globally for decades. The human rights organization, Amnesty International, came to this conclusion in their annual report published on Wednesday that documents the state of human rights in 155 countries.

Amnesty criticizes that the universality of human rights is being called into question due to wars and conflicts but also because of increasing social inequalities and the climate crisis.

“We condemn the fact that nationalistic, racist and misogynistic forces are rising in popularity across the world because they attack the idea of equal dignity and rights for all people in both word and action,” said Secretary General from Amnesty International (Germany) with regard to publishing the report (German article).

Civilian Populations in Distress

As the human rights organization reports, governments, security forces and armed groups in many parts of the world are violating international laws – which could have devastating consequences for civilian populations. For example, Amnesty criticizes attacks made by the Russian army on densely populated civilian areas as well as on infrastructure for energy production and grain exports in Ukraine. Additionally, the organization has documented the torture and abuse of prisoners of war during the war.

The NGO also accuses the conflicting parties in Sudan of committing targeted attacks in which civilians were hurt and killed. The war has caused the largest displacement crisis in the world. According to Amnesty, more than eight million people have been forced to flee. Furthermore, the country is on the verge of famine.

Amnesty also deplores the attacks on civilians in Myanmar and the Gaza Strip.

Setbacks in Women’s Rights

According to the report, there were setbacks this year in many countries with regard to women’s rights. For example, the UN organization “UN Women” admonished the increasing inequality between genders.

Amnesty criticizes that some governments have further intensified discrimination against women and girls. In Afghanistan, for example, women are now prohibited from receiving education beyond primary school. They are also no longer allowed to work for United Nations institutions, in NGOs or in public service.

The authorities in Iran are relentlessly making headscarves compulsory. In both countries, women are threatened with “brutal state retaliation” if they exercise their rights.

With regard to sexual and reproductive rights, there was some progress in 2023. For example, the Supreme Court in Mexico deemed the criminalization of abortions as unconstitutional. France and Spain also facilitated access to abortions.

In contrast, 15 states in the USA have prohibited abortions entirely or only allow abortions in a few exceptional cases.

Death Penalties for Homosexuality

Additionally, numerous governments have restricted the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, trans and intersexual people (LGBTI+). For example, Uganda has made ‘aggravated homosexuality’ a criminal offence, punishable by death. The Supreme Court in India ruled against the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

This past year, 62 countries across the world introduced laws that criminalize same-sex sexual acts.

In the current report, Amnesty investigates the effects of new and existing technologies on human rights. For example, the organization warns that artificial intelligence (AI) could intensify already existing inequalities. It could spread hate speech on an even larger scale. Given the amount of upcoming elections in 2024, the potential spread of incorrect and fake information around politics is a cause for concern. The NGO expects an increase of such cases.

A semi-automatic system for distributing social services was implemented in Serbia. As a result, thousands of people have potentially lost access to critical social welfare – Roma and people with disabilities have been affected in particular.

Surveillance Technology

Countries like Argentina, Brazil, India and Great Britain are increasingly implementing facial recognition to monitor public protests and sporting events.

Lena Rohrbach of Amnesty (Germany) said: “These technologies encourage discrimination, racism and disproportionate and therefore also unlawful surveillance. At the same time, spy software remains largely unregulated internationally even though there has been evidence for a long time of human rights being violated in connection with it.”

In 2023, security researchers exposed the surveillance of journalists and activists in civil society using spy software – for example, in Armenia, India, Serbia and in the Dominican Republic.

The organization demands that highly invasive spy software and facial recognition technology be forbidden immediately. The implementation of AI must be regulated.

Considering the steps backwards in human rights protection, Amnesty International demands action from the international community. For example, civilians need to be better protected in conflicts. Violence against women and marginalized groups must also be combated. Freedom of speech and assembly must also be strengthened. (js)