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CONTACT: Amnesty International
Dangerous Flashpoints Over Basic Rights Define 2008 State of Human Rights
in Annual Global Report by Amnesty International
Organization Calls On Governments to Respond to Growing Frustration and Angry Demands for Justice, Freedom and Equality
LONDON - May 28 - Marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Amnesty International said today in its 2008 annual report that the world faces continuing dangerous flashpoints over basic rights if governments fail to respond to growing angry demands for justice, freedom and equality -- like those in Myanmar, Pakistan and Iran.
Amnesty International said that despite adoption of the UDHR in 1948 by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.
Citing some of the most striking images of the last year -- monks in Myanmar, lawyers in Pakistan, food rioters in Bangladesh, Egypt and Haiti and women activists in Iran -- the Amnesty International Report 2008: State of the World's Human Rights said the year was characterized by the impotence of Western governments and the ambivalence or reluctance of emerging powers to tackle some of the world’s worst human rights crises, ranging from entrenched conflicts to growing inequalities that are leaving millions of people behind.
"There is a growing grassroots demand from people for justice, equality and freedom," said Irene Khan, secretary general of Amnesty International. "The human rights flashpoints in Darfur, Zimbabwe, Gaza, Iraq and Myanmar demand immediate action. Restless and angry, people will not be silenced and leaders ignore them at their peril."
"Much of the world today is defined by injustice, inequality and impunity," said Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA. "Governments have demonstrated little vision or leadership on human rights. As a result there is a yawning gap between the promise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the brutality that people around the world experience every day."
Amnesty International, in its report covering 150 countries, challenged governments to set a new paradigm for collective leadership based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
"2008 presents an unprecedented opportunity for new leaders coming to power and countries emerging on the world stage to set a new direction and reject the myopic policies and practices in recent years that have made the world a more dangerous and divided place," said Ms. Khan. "The most powerful must lead by example."
The organization urged the following:
• China must live up to the human rights promises it made around the Olympic Games and allow free speech and freedom of the press and end "re-education through labor."
• The United States must close the Guantánamo detention camp and secret detention centers, prosecute the detainees under fair trial standards or release them, and unequivocally reject the use of torture and ill-treatment.
• Russia must show greater tolerance for political dissent, and no tolerance for impunity on human rights abuses in Chechnya.
• The EU must investigate the complicity of its member states in "renditions" of terrorist suspects and set the same bar on human rights for its own members as it does for other countries. Ms. Khan warned: "World leaders are in a state of denial but their failure to act has a high cost. Governments today must show the same degree of vision, courage and commitment that led the United Nations to adopt the Universal Declaration of Human Rights sixty years ago." To view the full report, please visit: