Amnesty International Report 2016/17: The State of the World’s Human Rights


‘Politics of demonisation’ breeding division and fear

Today Amnesty International releases its yearly report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, which delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights across 159 countries, including New Zealand. The global picture highlights politicians wielding a toxic, dehumanising “us vs them” rhetoric, creating a more divided and dangerous world.

“Fear-mongering is becoming the norm. Today’s politics of demonisation is selling a dangerous idea that some people are less human than others, leaving refugees and other vulnerable groups to suffer the consequences,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director of Amnesty International New Zealand.

Human Rights in New Zealand
While alarm bells are ringing in war zones and hotspots around the world, New Zealand does not escape unscathed in the report. Of particular concern are disproportionately high rates of Māori incarceration in the criminal justice system, child poverty and domestic violence, as also highlighted by a number of UN human rights groups.

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Regarding refugees and asylum seekers, modest progress was made with the announcement to increase the annual refugee quota from 750 to 1000 by the year 2018.

“While the increase was a step in the right direction, it wasn’t enough given the scale of the crisis. We could have done so much more.

“Amnesty International also welcomed New Zealand’s renewed offer to accept 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus. However the government’s failure to speak out about Australia’s cruel and inhumane offshore detention policy remains a huge disappointment,” said Bayldon.

A global slippery slope
The trend of angrier and more divisive politics was exemplified by Donald Trump’s poisonous campaign rhetoric, but he was not alone in spreading a narrative of fear, blame and division.

In 2016, governments turned on refugees and migrants. The report documents how 36 countries violated international law by sending refugees back to a country where they face persecution or war.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to purposefully inflict terrible suffering by trapping refugees on Nauru and Manus Island, while Mexico and the US deport people fleeing rampant violence in Central America.

“Instead of protecting people’s rights, many world leaders have opted to scapegoat certain groups in order to win political favour,” said Bayldon. “Refugees have often been the first target. If things continue in this way, we’ll see more and more people being attacked on the basis of religion, gender, race and nationality.”

Who is going to stand up for human rights?
Amnesty International is calling on people around the world to resist cynical efforts to roll back long-established human rights. Progress made towards social justice and equality has been hard fought and won. It will only continue with individual people acting together in mass solidarity to protect our fundamental freedoms.

“We simply can’t sit back and rely on our governments to stand up for human rights. It’s down to people like you and me to take action, influence our governments and defend human dignity,” said Bayldon.

In 2016, Amnesty International has documented grave violations of human rights in 159 countries. Examples of the rise and impact of poisonous rhetoric, national crackdowns on activism and freedom of expression highlighted by Amnesty International in its Annual Report include, but are by no means limited, to:

Bangladesh: Instead of providing protection for or investigating the killings of activists, reporters and bloggers, authorities have pursued trials against media and the opposition for, among other things, Facebook posts.

China: Ongoing crackdown against lawyers and activists continued, including incommunicado detention, televised confessions and harassments of family members.

DRC: Pro-democracy activists subjected to arbitrary arrests and, in some cases, prolonged incommunicado detention.

Egypt: Authorities used travel bans, financial restrictions and asset freezes to undermine, smear and silence civil society groups.

Ethiopia: A government increasingly intolerant of dissenting voices used anti-terror laws and a state of emergency to crack down on journalists, the political opposition and, in particular, protesters, who have been met with excessive and lethal force.

France: Heavy-handed security measures under the prolonged state of emergency have included thousands of house searches, as well as travel bans and detentions.

Honduras: Berta Cáceres and seven other human rights activists were killed.

Hungary: Government rhetoric championed a divisive brand of identity politics and a dark vision of “Fortress Europe”, which translated into a policy of systematic crackdown on refugee and migrants rights.

India: Oppressive laws have been used to try to silence student activists, academics and journalists.

Iran: Heavy suppression of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and religious beliefs. Peaceful critics jailed after grossly unfair trials before Revolutionary Courts, including journalists, lawyers, bloggers, students, women’s rights activists, filmmakers and even musicians.

Myanmar: Tens of thousands of Rohingya people – who remain deprived of a nationality – displaced by “clearance operations” amid reports of unlawful killings, indiscriminate firing on civilians, rape and arbitrary arrests.

Philippines: A wave of extrajudicial executions ensued after President Duterte promised to kill tens of thousands of people suspected of being involved in the drug trade.

Russia: The government noose tightened around national NGOs, with increasing propaganda labelling critics as “undesirable” or “foreign agents”, and the first prosecution of NGOs under a “foreign agents” law. Abroad there was a complete disregard for international humanitarian law in Syria.

Saudi Arabia: Government critics have been detained and jailed on vaguely worded charges such as “insulting the state”. Coalition forces bombed schools, hospitals, markets and mosques in Yemen, killing and injuring thousands of civilians using internationally banned cluster bombs supplied by the US and UK.

South Sudan: Ongoing fighting continued to have devastating humanitarian consequences for civilian populations, with violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.

Sudan: Evidence pointed strongly to the use of chemical weapons by government forces in Darfur. Elsewhere, suspected opponents and critics of the government subjected to arbitrary arrests and detentions. Excessive use of force by the authorities in dispersing gatherings led to numerous casualties.

Syria: Impunity for war crimes and gross human rights abuses continued, including indiscriminate attacks and lengthy sieges that trapped civilians. The human rights community has been almost completely crushed, with activists either imprisoned, tortured, disappeared, or forced to flee the country.

Thailand: Emergency powers, defamation and sedition laws used to restrict freedom of expression.

Turkey: Tens of thousands locked up after failed coup, with hundreds of NGOs suspended, a massive media crackdown, and the continuing onslaught in Kurdish areas.

UK: A spike in hate crimes followed the referendum on European Union membership. A new surveillance law granted significantly increased powers to intelligence and other agencies to invade people’s privacy.

USA: An election campaign marked by discriminatory, misogynist and xenophobic rhetoric raised serious concerns about the strength of future US commitments to human rights domestically and globally.

Venezuela: Backlash against outspoken human rights defenders who raised the alarm about the humanitarian crisis caused by the government’s failure to meet the economic and social rights of the population.


  1. ““Fear-mongering is becoming the norm. Today’s politics of demonisation is selling a dangerous idea that some people are less human than others, leaving refugees and other vulnerable groups to suffer the consequences,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director of Amnesty International New Zealand.”

    Anyone who lived through the 1930s will recognise what is happening. No good will come of demonising minorities and giving rise to fanatical nationalism.

    When the US/Trump and Russia/Putin are lumped together on AI’s list of problematic nations, we are in serious trouble.

  2. I’m afraid Amnesty discredits itself by pretending brave impartiality,
    taking the opportunity to bash Trumps campaign while forgetting to mention that the US now has the highest inequality gap in the world, the highest rate of incarceration, (mainly consisting of black Americans, the descendants of slaves), the death penalty, a militarised police force, torture, Guantanomo, catastrophic rates of homelessness, the list goes on
    Given that the right to live is the bottom line as far as human rights go, the US is responsible for the deaths of millions globally.
    This didn’t start with the advent of Trump, as far as I’m concerned he’s a symptom, not a cause.
    That the only criiticism of the US Amnesty can find is the recent election is nothing short of farcical.
    Maybe explained by the revolving door between Amnesty directorships and the US State dept

    • Spot on.

      Under Obama, invasions, torturing and murdering innocent people continued to be the normal default setting for America politics, along with increasing the wealth gap and using ‘security’ forces to attack anyone who objected to things the government was doing.

      As anyone who has an understanding of history knows, there is no such thing as ‘human rights’; there are just temporary privileges that can be taken away at a moments notice.

      • Whats outlined in the OP are marginal players been incentivised into conflict, so what ever they put up is leveraged up by other interested parties who will lend military aid based on what has already been blown up.

        So they all lose money but the objective here is to make money. What causes differences in approach? is really important to understand because once you know the home truths and the perimeters of the industry you operate in, you can choose to operate in a different way, and operate with in that frame work because at the end of the day no one has a choice. People still need to access the market they are in. But how do you operate with in these perimetres

        1. conflicts of interests, you got to be aware of this and why it exists
        2. Killing for income,
        3. Tactics and kit seduction, as in believing that the F35 combat aircraft is going to give you all the answers needed to quell violence
        4. Information over load or misuse of information

        Conflict of interest formula is a very simple formula, what you’re looking at here–> (price) multiplied by (volume) multiplied by (commision), this literally underpins all industries. Everything comes back to price times volume, times commision. So prices when conflicts brake out in fits of rage double. Volume doubles. Commission doubles. And people talk more about conflicts because they can and that gets maxed. In peaceful times that all gets halved. So prices halve, volumes dry up because of a lack of confidence in the investment arena or the world in general, and every one fights for the smaller amount of conflict news globally so every one reduces there commission rates just to stay alive.

        Conflicts of interest causes people to do what they don’t want to do. So typical civilians come into conflicts flat with no positions because there house might have been blown up so on and so forth and your children are hungry and all along the way he’s aware of all of the risks. So if you stand outside a building while people operate with in them you stand a much better chance of surviving, so the US airforce for example by there own measures, only a fraction of causalities are intended targets, the vast majority are just people trying to go about there routines. But why has the one guy and his family survived, because he lost everything at the beginning of a conflict and all along the way he is totally aware of the risks.

        So you can see very, very quickly how your odds of survival can change, and try. Secondly if you understand the perimeters and how to operate with in them you stand a much better chance of winning over time.

  3. Saudi Arabia still has in prison a blogger named Raif Badawi. My Amnesty chapter in Christchurch campaigned to stop him from being flogged. We and the other chapters who campaigned could not stop the first 50 (of 1000 – the number is not a typo)lashes being applied, but we have managed to delay the other 950.

    But flogging could resume at any time and his health is not good. He has two children and a wife (Ensar Haidar).

    My group is currently working on getting a Chinese human rights lawyer, Su Changlan out of jail. She is in poor health and the charges against her are a) trumped up b)keep getting delayed.

    • Meanwhile, between 10,000 and 30,000 children die every day from preventable diseases and malnutrition or actual starvation.

      Nobody know the number because such children do not count.

      Such suffering is, of course, quite normal, it’s is just that certain nations have managed to tilt the table very much in their favour, mostly via the possession of advanced weapons.

      Saudi Arabia will be one of the first nations to ‘go under’ when the globalized food system starts to collapse, its population having risen from around 4 million to around 32 million in less than one lifespan.

  4. Amnesty International twenty five years ago was a real force for peoples rights around the world.. Unfortunately since then it has lost its way, along with Human rights watch.Today it is a propaganda organ for the States Department and Nato.Funding is mainly by the U.S,U.k, and Neo-Con fascist George Soros.This of course accounts for the kindly way those countries are reported by Amnesty.,and the anti Russian line which features in all their reports.All countries threatening U.S.Hegomany are their targets.

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