23 February 2018

Africa: Amnesty Says Politics of Fear, Hate Being Normalized by Some Leaders

Amnesty International's annual report documents human rights violations in nearly 160 countries and claims 2017 saw the politics of hate and fear normalized by some of the most powerful leaders in the world.

In its newly released report, Amnesty says actions by leaders in Egypt, the Philippines, Venezuela, China, Russia and the United States have been undermining the rights of millions.

“They have openly defied human rights laws or call for others to defy human rights laws. In the case of the Philippine President [Rodrigo] Duterte he has actually called on people to go out and kill those they suspect to be drug dealers,” Amnesty's executive director Margaret Huang said.

The report criticizes U.S. President Donald Trump on his immigration policies, for undermining press freedoms and for his record on women's rights. VOA reached out to the White House and State Department for comment, but did not get a response.

“One of the most egregious examples is his adoption of the Global Gag Rule ... So organizations that have long offered counseling, advice and information about abortion and other reproductive health services have to make a choice between [offering abortion advice to] their patients or getting funding from the U.S. government,” Huang said.

Officially known as the Mexico City Policy, the ban on U.S. State Department and USAID funding to international organizations that provide abortion counseling has been on and off the books since 1984, depending on which party controls the White House. Under President Trump the policy was broadened to cover all U.S. international health care funding, based on the argument that it is intended to protect the lives of the unborn.

A women's rights advocacy group says the Global Gag Rule has cost organizations like their's millions of dollars in lost funding.

“So already in places like Madagascar, Uganda, Zimbabwe we have seen programs particularly serving vulnerable women, things like the voucher programs we use to help the private sector serve women to access contraception have already stopped to be able to be accessed by women,” said John Lotspeich, director of partnerships and resource mobilization at Marie Stopes International.

However a U.S. State Department report this month found that the great majority of overseas health partners have accepted the policy provisions and received new funding. The report found areas where “further guidance is needed” and recommended a further review of the policy by December “when more extensive experience will enable a more thorough examination of the benefits and challenges.”

The Amnesty report claims free speech suffered in 2017, and pointed to China, Egypt and Turkey as the biggest offenders. VOA contacted the embassies of those countries in the U.S. but they have not yet replied.

“Turkey has imprisoned more than 50,000 people over the last couple of years including both the chair and director of Amnesty Turkey ... This by a government that is led by someone who once was an amnesty prisoner of conscience ... and now he has turned around and arrested our human rights leaders as part of an effort to arrest anyone who has been critical of the government, which is the same kind of situation we are seeing in Egypt and China,” Huang said.

The report does note signs of progress in the Women’s March and #metoo movements. It also applauded Taiwan for its decision to allow gay marriages.

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