The state of human rights in the world, to put it lightly, is not good. According to Amnesty International’s annual report, published today, many politicians “miserably failed” to protect civilians in 2014.
From Damascus, to Washington, to Caracas, the “State of the World’s Human Rights Report” expounds on some of the year’s worst violations.
The most widespread appears to be in Syria, where more than 200,000 people, mostly civilians, have died. Amnesty International, one of the largest non-government organisations, estimates that 4m refugees have fled to other countries. About 7.6m are displaced within Syria. The Islamic State, civilian causalities in Gaza, Boko Haram, and conflicts in South Sudan are only fraction of the issues throughout 160 countries investigated by Amnesty.
The Americas also came under criticism when it came to human rights last year. The region seems to be going backwards, according to the report. For example, in Mexico more than 22,000 people have been abducted or forcibly disappeared since 2006, including 43 students from Guerrero state in September 2014. The report also condemns the United States, Venezuela and Brazil for excessive use of police force.
Argentina, according to the report, remained ‘stagnant’ in many human rights issues. Indigenous peoples’ and women’s rights were a key issue, as well as a failure to bring justice in the 1994 Argentina Israelite Mutual Association, or AMIA bombing.
Mariela Belski, executive director at Amnesty International Argentina, named access to abortions as a top issue in the country.
More than half of jurisdictions in Argentina did not have protocols in place at hospitals for legal abortions, according to the report. Implementation of legal abortions, which are allowed if the pregnancy is a result of sexual abuse or puts the woman’s life or health at risk, was at an all-time low in 2014.
“We are working very hard in terms of getting the decriminalisation of abortion,” Belski said. “I can mention ten different human rights that this violates.”
She said a new law would reduce maternal mortality, especially in conservative provinces where statistics are much higher.
There was hope in the Amnesty office in Buenos Aires that progress might come in 2015, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s last presidential year. The same-sex marriage law, passed under Fernández in 2010, was a spark of optimism for Belski.
“If you look at the arguments in the equal marriage law, it’s quite the same argument you can use to defend the decriminalisation of abortion,” Belski told the Argentina Independent. “We were thinking, why did she take on this fight and not abortion?”
Belski admits it’s “also kind of difficult” in a heavily Catholic country, with an Argentine Pope. She said those at Amnesty often ask themselves why Pope Francis supports decriminalised abortion in European countries, and not in Argentina.
Meanwhile, indigenous rights in Argentina were “rarely fulfilled” in 2014. The National Constitution recognises Indigenous People’s right to ancestral land and the management of resources. Yet in April, the Formosa Province again violated land rights in building of a healthcare centre without the consent of the Qom community.
The struggle has reached the centre of Buenos Aires, where members of the community are camping to call attention to their plight. Qom leader Félix Díaz, named a human rights defender by Amnesty, and other members of the community have been living in tents at the corner of Av. De Mayo and Av. 9 de Julio since 14th February.
A similar camp in 2011 lasted five months and only ended after government promises of dialogue to resolve territorial disputes and guarantee basic rights. However, these talks quickly broke down and progress has been very limited since.
“The violation of our human rights is not respecting the cultural identity of indigenous communities,” said Díaz, speaking to the Indy at the makeshift camp. “We are protesting here on this little square so that our human rights are respected and guaranteed as citizens and as human beings.”
Other human rights abuses in Argentina included recurring reports of torture in prisonsin Mendoza and elsewhere. Many were not investigated, including the cases of Marcelo Tello and Iván Bressan, who were imprisoned in Santiago Del Estero. Argentina is now also dealing with drug cartels, according to the report, a new problem and human rights issue on Belski and Amnesty’s radar.
Amnesty did credit the current government for continuing to hold trials for war crimes. Throughout Argentina, public tribunals were held for crimes against humanity committed during the last military dictatorship. More than 100 defendants accused of crimes committed at clandestine detention centers were tried in 2014.
“[President] Cristina did a good job in terms of some human rights,” Belski said, adding that government representatives were always open to hearing Amnesty’s stance, even if nothing changed. “But she forgot that there are other human rights that are important, and we need to take care of them.”
Belski mentioned that the current government’s promotion of its human rights credentials might hurt progress in the future, especially in upcoming elections. President Fernández, she said, used human rights so much that voters “in a way are fed up with the human rights discourse.”
“Our concern is that the new candidates will not cover human rights issues because of this,” Belski said.
Lead image – photos courtesy of Beatrice Murch, Comité Contra la Tortura, and Patricio Guillamon