The invasion of Ukraine exposed an international “double standard” on human rights, with the West responding forcefully to Russia’s war of aggression while maintaining a “deafening silence” about human rights abuses around the world, says a new Amnesty International report. .
The UK-based human rights organization released its 2022 annual report on Tuesday, March 28, which highlights the human rights situation in 156 countries and territories.
Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, told Al Jazeera in Paris on Monday, “In 2022 we have a great example of how the world stands in support and solidarity with the people of Ukraine. But We have no similar support and solidarity with the people of countries like Palestine, Ethiopia, Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Callamard noted that the international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been “strong and welcome,” marked by public condemnation and “strong calls against the many war crimes that are being committed.”
She added, “It was also marked by commitment and real action in support of an international investigation into these war crimes. The ICC did intervene very quickly and cleanly, which is very unusual.”
In March 2022, ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said he was opening an investigation into alleged war crimes in Ukraine dating back to the 2013 Maidan protests. Demonstrations against the country’s then-Russia-friendly government erupted in central Kiev at the time and continued until the fall of then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s government in early 2014.
Earlier this month, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin on suspicion of war crimes in Ukraine.
Callamard said the response to Ukraine had been so “multifaceted” and covered many dimensions, including the issue of Ukrainian refugees. As such, it makes “silence, indifference and neglect so stark” when compared with other incidents of human rights violations.
Israeli occupation and refugees
Amnesty International’s secretary-general said that while the report contained many examples of double standards on human rights, the occupation of the Palestinians was “a particularly significant one”.
Callamard told Al Jazeera, “Without any comparisons between the Russian aggression and Israel, it is clear that the Palestinian people are under an oppressive regime that is also an occupation regime and an apartheid regime.”
“At a time when the international community is doing so much for the people of Ukraine, the people of Palestine have had the deadliest year in decades,” Callamard said.
In 2022, more than 150 Palestinians, including 36 children, will be killed in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. In May, Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Aghlai was killed by an Israeli soldier while covering the Jenin raid, drawing worldwide condemnation.
The Amnesty report also condemned European practices and attitudes towards Ukrainian refugees, in stark contrast to refugees from other countries.
“The generous reception of most people from Ukraine stands in stark contrast to the often violent rejection and mistreatment of refugees and migrants at Europe’s outer borders,” Amnesty International said in the report.
“This double standard exposes the racism inherent in EU external border policy and practice,” the group said.
The report states that in the United States, between September 2021 and May 2022, 25,000 Haitians were deported without due process, in violation of international law.
Among other crises highlighted in the report, Amnesty said Ethiopia’s more than two-year-long civil war in Tigray was one of the “deadliest in recent memory”. According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands of people will be drawn into conflict in 2022 alone. Countries such as Mali, Venezuela and Yemen are also plagued by armed fighting or systemic violence “linked to human rights violations.”
Ukraine is a ‘blueprint’ for human rights
Callamard told Al Jazeera that Ukraine should provide internationally a “blueprint” of what needs to be done to protect people from serious rights violations.
“What can be done for Ukrainian refugees, of course, can be done for Syrian refugees,” she noted.
She added, “Why doesn’t the international community expand what they have done for the Ukrainian people and do the same for others? The only answer to that question will be self-interest.”
Asked if she was optimistic about the human rights situation in 2023, Callamard said: “Sadly, while we do have a good model with Ukraine, we don’t quite act in a global and general interest and create rules that apply to everyone everywhere.”