‘World leaders have failed’: Q&A with Amnesty’s Agnes Callamard

In its newest annual report detailing the state of human rights internationally, Amnesty Worldwide denounces world leaders for weaponising the COVID-19 pandemic to ramp up their assault on fundamental rights, whereas failing to face as much as the challenges posed by the coronavirus.

Within the 400-page report revealed on Wednesday, Amnesty’s newly appointed Secretary Common Agnes Callamard described 2020 as “three hundred and sixty six days that noticed the fostering of deadly selfishness, cowardice, mediocrity, and poisonous failures from xenophobia and racial hatred”.

Recognized for her daring assertions, Callamard is a human rights professional who has beforehand performed investigations into extrajudicial killings as a United Nations’ particular rapporteur – an impartial function she held since 2016.

Her highest profile case was the homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi brokers in 2018 on the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Callamard’s probe concluded that Saudi Arabia was chargeable for the extrajudicial execution. Following the investigation, a senior Saudi official reportedly issued dying threats towards her.

Al Jazeera spoke to Callamard concerning the report’s findings and the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected human rights points across the globe.

Al Jazeera: What struck you most concerning the findings of the report? 

The indivisibility of human rights, the interdependency between civil and political rights, financial and social rights. Individuals around the globe have been the victims of inequity and discrimination, typically in alliance with the repression of their political and civic rights. [It shows] an entire interdependence of how the true system of violence features.

In 2020 governance and customary duty got here from the folks on the streets. It got here from those that labored in hospitals to heal us, who cleaned the streets, who fed us, who introduced us packages to our properties, who marched towards oppression. Management got here from probably the most weak teams, with out whom we might haven’t survived the pandemic.

2020 is the historical past of who had much less, gave probably the most and obtained the least. However, the leaders of the world, whether or not political or industrial, failed us.

Healthcare employees protest over the dearth of non-public protecting tools (PPE) through the coronavirus illness (COVID19) outbreak, outdoors a hospital in Cape City, South Africa [File: Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

Their response to the pandemic didn’t consider the vulnerability of people and teams, comparable to migrants, refugees and ladies, who’re on the receiving finish of very problematic insurance policies. That’s what 2020 is about: the results of years of neglect the place inequalities and discrimination weren’t taken as a precedence as they need to have been. Quite the opposite, insurance policies that have been applied elevated such inequalities.

Al Jazeera: You describe 2020 as the results of a ‘damaged system’ that wants a ‘reset and reboot’. How can we obtain this? 

Step one that have to be instantly taken is to make sure that everybody around the globe will get entry to vaccination free on the level of use. This implies sharing the information to provide and multiply vaccine manufacturing with international locations around the globe. In any other case, we aren’t going to manage as a world group.

It’s important that international locations that have been already among the many most impoverished around the globe, and which have suffered much more through the pandemic, are being supplied outright debt aid. Not a brief one comparable to agreed through the G20 assembly [debt payment has been suspended for low-income countries, but they are expected to return the money with interest later].

A protester, sustaining a social distance from others to forestall the unfold of COVID-19, holds a placard that reads ‘Human Rights Defenders aren’t terrorists’ throughout a rally towards an anti-terror invoice that was accredited by President Rodrigo Duterte the day prior to this, in Quezon Metropolis within the Philippines [File: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

On the nation stage, there must be a reset. Because of this there have to be a real understanding of the politics of the previous 10 years which have resulted in rising poverty in 2020. Whether or not they’re on public investments, public companies, social safety, safety of freedom of meeting … all of the measures that made the world unable to deal with a pandemic. They have to be recognized, named and adjusted.

In concrete phrases, this might imply a taxation system that’s truthful, that permits a good taxation on firms around the globe, specifically, firms that preserve creating wealth on fossil fuels. We’d like taxation geared towards the response to local weather change. We have to consider social safety as a result of it’s unacceptable that individuals are confronted with the direst financial state of affairs as a result of for years we’ve uncared for to put money into social safety techniques.

There is no such thing as a quick resolution however there have to be commitments to deal with all these measures that made us so weak to the pandemic.

Members of a Russian feminists’ motion march to mark Worldwide Girls’s Day alongside a road in central Saint Petersburg [File: Olga Maltseva/AFP]

Al Jazeera: Is the very notion that human rights matter below assault?

2020 was a 12 months the place we understood that the assault towards the human rights of some turns into an affront of human rights of all. Human rights have been attacked as a perfect for some years, plenty of governments are insisting that human rights aren’t essential and that there are different values, comparable to nationwide pursuits and sovereignty, that ought to dominate.

With that language, the entire world goes down the drain. As a result of with out international solidarity you can’t combat a pandemic.

Al Jazeera: What challenges do new applied sciences pose to human rights?

The problem that we’re confronting as a human rights organisation and as a world group, is that there are a multiplicity of assaults on human rights and that every of those assaults has a multiplicity of dimensions. The brand new industrial revolution can have some optimistic elements to human rights manufacturing, however it’s a revolution that’s progressing very quick and we don’t perceive it very effectively.

Each month we’re witnessing new makes an attempt by plenty of governments and corporations to make use of synthetic intelligence round facial recognition, use of drones for policing functions or killings. The multiplication of weapons is a component of our surroundings and they’re a serious supply of challenges for human rights safety.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Ivan Lam have been taken into custody after they pleaded responsible to expenses associated to an illustration outdoors police headquarters throughout anti-government protests final 12 months [File:Vincent Yu/AP]

Al Jazeera: What are the most important challenges the Center East area is dealing with when it comes to human rights abuses?

The Center East is one area that’s struggling the brunt, not solely of the pandemic, but in addition of geostrategic issues. It’s a spot very a lot uncared for by the worldwide group, apart from revenue and navy presence. It’s the place the place justice and accountability haven’t obtained the eye that they deserve and the place the worldwide group has waged conflict, with out having the ability to consider a post-war state of affairs and assist the seek for justice.

The area is characterised by the multiplicity of regimes which can be repressing, stifling dissent and imprisoning all these which can be critics of the authorities. It’s a place the place battle between regional and superpowers result in an unlimited quantity of victims. We have now seen conditions most likely amounting to genocide with what Daesh [ISIL, or ISIS] has performed, crimes towards humanity in Syria in addition to conflict crimes in Yemen.

Al Jazeera: What has been the function of the United Nations this previous 12 months and has it been efficient in defending human rights?

The UN is a product of member states and, in 2020, the world did not act and assume globally.

The multilateral devices weren’t capable of rise to the problem. On the UN Safety Council, even earlier than 2020, we’ve seen frequently using veto energy by international locations stopping international motion. So for the time being, and as additional revealed by 2020, the multilateral devices aren’t match for objective.

A view of a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants subsequent to the Moria camp, on the island of Lesbos, Greece [File: Elias Marcou/Reuter]

Al Jazeera: You latterly revealed that an official from Saudi Arabia issued dying threats towards you whilst you have been working because the UN particular rapporteur for extrajudicial executions. What does that say about how far rights abuses can attain?

It says that some governments around the globe, in my case the considered one of Saudi Arabia, are ready to focus on and threaten a world professional nominated by member states to watch the human rights state of affairs. And they’re threatening her as a result of she is doing her work. It implies that there isn’t any secure area, together with the diplomatic one, regardless of being safer than many different areas.

We’re confronting a world the place governments are ready to silence and to censor anybody criticising them even these which can be outdoors the boundaries of their international locations. We face a world the place governments are ready to go extra-territorially to have interaction in act of espionage that may result in disappearances, to homicide – comparable to within the case of Jamal Khashoggi.

There’s a multiplication of makes an attempt by governments to silence anybody, anyplace they’re, for what they’re doing so that could be a international phenomenon and that is without doubt one of the classes we have to extract. We must be way more agile at responding to these conditions and to be way more conscious that there’s a rise in concentrating on people, wherever they’re.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *