UN Security Council ‘tired and out of step’, says Amnesty International

By: Lizzy Davies

The UN Security Council is suffering a failure of leadership which makes it seem “tired, out of step and increasingly unfit for purpose”, the human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) says on Thursday as it chastises the “determination” of some permanent member states to shield the Syrian regime “at all cost”.

Amnesty claims that Russia and China have "used their leverage on the Security Council to forestall effective action on Syria”

In its 50th global human rights report, AI documents human rights abuses in countries across the globe, noting a worsening discrimination against gay people in Africa and an increase in xenophobic rhetoric by some European politicians.

But after what it describes as a “momentous” year for the region, it is on the Middle East and north Africa that much of the report focuses. Despite “compelling evidence” of crimes against humanity being committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime, it notes, the UN Security Council has not referred the Syrian leader to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even as the UN’s own human rights chief spoke out against the violence, it adds, Russia and China ”used their leverage at the Security Council to forestall effective action on Syria”.

Failure to take action, it concludes, has left the Security Council looking “redundant”. “There is a clear and compelling case for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court for investigation of crimes against humanity,” said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International. “The determination of some UN Security Council members to shield Syria at any cost leaves accountability for these crimes elusive and is a betrayal of the Syrian people.”

Calling on the UN to agree on a strong arms trade treaty in July, Amnesty says a robust treaty to regulate the $55bn global trade is vital. 2011 – the year documented for the report – showed how “opportunistic alliances and financial interests” can trump human rights, said Shetty.

The report, which comes ahead of the publication later on Thursday of the US State Department annual human rights report, also draws attention to issues in Britain. Some aspects of Ken Clarke’s justice and security green paper ”gave rise to concern”, it says, adding that the government should establish an independent inquiry into alleged UK involvement in torture and rendition after the scrapping earlier this year of Sir Peter Gibson’s inquiry.

Elsewhere in Europe, the report finds, some governments have actively contributed to the the strengthening of stereotypes and prejudices and the fuelling of intolerance. The Romanian president, it says, has twice been warned about making “anti-Roma” statements on television, while debates surrounding full-face veil bans in Belgium and France have often been “based on assumptions rather than reliable data” and have “further stigmatised Muslims”.

In other countries such as Belarus and Azerbaijan, the host of Saturday’s Eurovision song contest, autocratic regimes strengthened their grip on power, the report notes. In sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, where the uprisings to the north inspired popular dissent in countries from Angola to Senegal to Uganda, authoritarian rules clamped down with “excessive force”.

Source: The Guardian

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