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Amnesty International warns: Politics of demonization breeding division and fear around the globe

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The Amnesty International says that politicians wielding a toxic, dehumanizing "us vs them" rhetoric are creating a more divided and dangerous world. The warning came in its 2017 annual assessment of human rights around the world released on Wednesday (Feb. 22).

The State of the World's Human Rights report delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights around the world, covering 159 countries. It warns that the consequences of "us vs them" rhetoric setting the agenda in Europe, the United States and elsewhere is fueling a global push-back against human rights and leaving the global response to mass atrocities perilously weak.

"2016 was the year when the cynical use of 'us vs them' narratives of blame, hate and fear took on a global prominence to a level not seen since the 1930s. Too many politicians are answering legitimate economic and security fears with a poisonous and divisive manipulation of identity politics in an attempt to win votes," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

"Divisive fear-mongering has become a dangerous force in world affairs. Whether it is (US President Donald) Trump, (Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor) Orban (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdo─čan or (the Philippines President Rodrigo) Duterte, more and more politicians calling themselves anti-establishment are wielding a toxic agenda that hounds, scapegoats and dehumanizes entire groups of people. Today's politics of demonization shamelessly peddles a dangerous idea that some people are less human than others, stripping away the humanity of entire groups of people. This threatens to unleash the darkest aspects of human nature."

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The Amnesty report pointed out that seismic political shifts in 2016 exposed the potential of hateful rhetoric to unleash the dark side of human nature. The global trend of angrier and more divisive politics was exemplified by Donald Trump's poisonous campaign rhetoric, but political leaders in various parts of the world also wagered their future power on narratives of fear, blame and division, the report said.

Governments also turned on refugees and migrants; often an easy target for scapegoating. Amnesty International's Annual Report documents how 36 countries violated international law by unlawfully sending refugees back to a country where their rights were at risk.

Most recently, President Trump put his hateful xenophobic pre-election rhetoric into action by signing an executive order in an attempt to prevent refugees from seeking resettlement in the USA, blocking people fleeing conflict and persecution from war-torn countries such as Syria from seeking safe haven in the country.

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The European Union

Meanwhile, Iverna McGowan, head of European Institutions Office, warned that EU is not showing enough leadership to counter politically sanctioned hatred, which is breeding a toxic atmosphere and putting minorities at risk.

"European politicians are using demonizing language that echoes the dark times of the 1930s. We are demanding that political leaders stop scapegoating migrants and minorities in a cynical attempt to win votes, and instead focus on real long-term solutions to the challenges their peoples face," said Iverna McGowan.

"The EU, which claims to champion rights abroad, has failed to respond to many of these crises as its ambition to roll back on rights at home spills over into its foreign policy," she continued. "Take Egypt for example, where the government's unprecedented crackdown to smear and silence civil society has been met with muted reaction by the EU, which is too busy negotiating yet another dodgy migration deal with the Egyptian government."

Southeast Asia and Pacific region

The Amnesty International annual report also pointed out that the world faces a long list of crises with little political will to address them, including Myanmar, Philippines, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Central America, Central African Republic, Burundi, Iraq, South Sudan, and Sudan. Amnesty International's Annual Report documented war crimes committed in at least 23 countries in 2016.

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Despite these challenges, international indifference to war crimes has become an entrenched normality as the UN Security Council remains paralyzed by rivalries between permanent member states.

Human-rights violations in Southeast Asia and the Pacific region's states involved attacks against civilian populations that may amount to crimes against humanity.

"The beginning of 2017 finds many of the world's most powerful states pursuing narrower national interests at the expense of international cooperation. This risks taking us towards a more chaotic, dangerous world," said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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