By Paul Goble
Many governments around the world over the last year have cynically revived 1930s-style rhetoric of dividing people into “us” and “them” and the movement away from the defense of human rights by major countries is pushing others to adopt “an analogous course,” according to Amnesty International’s annual report.
In 2016, Salil Shetti, Amnesty International’s secretary general says, many leaders “began to use rhetoric directed at the dehumanization of whole groups of the population, refugees and migrants, foreigners and representatives of other confessions” in order to gain power by “manipulating collective identity” (amnesty.org.ru/ru/air201617/).
“Ever more leaders of states and politicians who call themselves battlers against the establishment are introducing policies based on persecution, dehumanization and blaming particular groups of people for social problems,” thus undermining human rights in general and opening the way to repression.
The 175-page report on the state of human rights in 159 countries says that “the situation in the former USSR is generating growing concern.” In most former Soviet republics, it says, “repressions of dissidents and the political opposition continued.” The situation in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Belarus was “especially bad,” and both Russia and Azerbaijan continued to limit the space “for basic freedoms.”
Over the course of 2016, civil society in Russia continued to lose ground to state repression. Ever more NGOs were put on the register of “foreign agents,” and three foreign NGOs were declared “undesirable organizations.” Moreover, the regime “ever more actively used anti-extremist laws against is opponents.”
In Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, Amnesty International continues, the human rights situation in Tajikistan and Kazakhstan continued to deteriorate rapidly. And as in 2014-2015, the conflict in the Donbass “negatively affected the situation with regard to human rights in Ukraine.”
Both the Ukrainian government and the pro-Moscow forces in the eastern portion of Ukraine violated the rights of many, with the latter seriously restricting the media to work freely on the territories of the “’self-proclaimed’” republics and the former violating media rights as well.
In Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, the situation is far worse, with the occupiers restricting the rights of residents far more severely than Kyiv. The particular target of such abuse, Amnesty says, are the members of the Crimean Tatar Milli Mejlis, civic activists and independent journalists.