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Amnesty: Populism eroding human rights globally

Helle Jeppesen | Lewis Sanders IV
February 22, 2018

The human rights watchdog has published its annual report, urging more human rights protections. Amnesty has warned that "hate-filled rhetoric" from US President Donald Trump and others has eroded human rights globally.

Donald Trump standing in front of a large American flag
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/R. Ehrhardt

Human rights watchdog Amnesty International on Thursday published its annual report, warning of increased violations across the globe.

Amnesty International's David Griffiths told DW that they made a conscious choice to release the report in Washington, given "how President (Donald) Trump's hate-filled rhetoric has translated into reality."

"There are complex links between human rights abuses and social inequality," Griffiths added. "But one of the ways we see them connected is how many leaders have exploited people's fears about economic fragility in order to promote hatred and fear."

Read more: Is Europe doing enough to protect human rights?

But the United States isn't the only place to witness a dangerous erosion of human rights due to populist leaders. Across the globe, Amnesty said, political leaders have used divisive rhetoric to shore up support for their causes, including in Turkey, Hungary and Myanmar.

Defenders targeted

The report said that at least 312 human rights activists were killed in 2017 because of their work. Journalists and media workers are increasingly being targeted by state actors, it noted.

Griffiths said the number of human rights defenders killed in 2017 marked an "increase on the previous year."

Read more: EU launches initiative to ban trade of torture products

"But it is not just killing; it is also intimidation and smears and harassment, making life very difficult for those who choose to stand up for human rights," he said. "And those threats are coming from lots of different places, whether it is governments or armed groups or companies or others."

70 years since Universal Declaration

The report called on Germany to do more at the international level to defend human rights, especially for the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told DW that the human rights situation is "getting alarmingly worse in many places" across the globe.

"It seems people are forgetting it now, and that's very worrying because then you risk a repeat of many of the awful things that have happened in not-so-distant history," Colville said.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, backed by 48 of the 58 UN member states in 1948, was created in response to the atrocities committed during World War II.

"The anniversary this year is a critical opportunity to try and reclaim those values that are articulated so beautifully in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - the idea of the fundamental dignity and equality of every member of the human family," Griffiths said.

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