- Title: UK/FILE: Sixty years on, human rights a global mess - Amnesty report
- Date: 28th May 2008
- Summary: (W5) BO THIN, MYANMAR (FILE - MAY 9, 2008) (REUTERS) DAMAGED VILLAGE TREES ON GROUND / DAMAGED HOUSES PEOPLE STANDING OUTSIDE HOUSES
- Embargoed: 12th June 2008 13:00
- Topics: International Relations,Social Services / Welfare
- Reuters ID: LVA1M3NC5PO9F0SCCL2KWNQ3N7FT
- Story Text: Six decades after world leaders unanimously signed the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the record is dismal and urgent action is needed to prevent global chaos, Amnesty International said on Wednesday (May 28).
From Asia to the United States and Africa, countries are reneging on their global commitments to uphold human rights and people are starting to lose patience, secretary general Irene Khan said in an interview marking the group's annual report.
"Amnesty International's fundamental message - 60 years after the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights - is that they must apologise for six decades of human rights failures and they must recommit themselves to take concrete action to set that straight," Khan said in a recent interview with Reuters.
The organisation believes China must live up to its new world-power status and end rights abuses, Myanmar must open up to the world and African leaders should show more responsibility.
"What's been amazing is the way in which the authorities have responded to that rapidly and in a very responsive way. That shows that China has the potential to turn the leaf on its human rights record, too," Khan said.
Although China fell down on human rights promises it made when winning its bid to host the Olympic Games in August, the global event will be a lever for change, she said.
"The Olympics is an opportunity to throw light on the situation in China. China will use it to throw light on itself and that's why we think it's an important opportunity to throw that light in a positive way and use it to bring about change. The Chinese government has changed its position on Darfur in the U.N. Security Council. The Chinese government has used its influence on Myanmar to open its door to the U.N. So, there is potential there for China to use the Olympics to positively bring about human rights change," Khan said.
Amnesty's annual report, in strong language for an organisation that often uses legal jargon, also encourages world leaders to form new alliances to encourage change.
"It's really brought world leaders face-to-face with the problem of how do they exert leverage on a government like Myanmar. And that, I believe, opens up an opportunity for world leaders - from Asia, from Europe, from other parts of the world, the United Nations, ASEAN - to come together to create a new kind of alliance that will then allow them to prise open countries like Myanmar, within which there are terrible human rights abuses taking place," Khan said of the recent cyclone that struck Myanmar and has subsequently forced the military junta to open its doors to foreigners.
Khan also welcomed the action by dockworkers in South Africa who refused to unload a cargo of arms from China destined for Zimbabwe.
She also noted the bloody backlash around Johannesburg against immigrants -- many who have fled Zimbabwe where the economy is in ruins, starvation is rampant and there is a crackdown on political dissent.
"That is the type of tension that's likely to spill out if governments don't take care of causes - the root causes - of the human rights problems," she said.
On December 10, 1948 the U.N. general assembly proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, forming a foundation for international human rights law and a first universal statement on the basic principles of human rights.
While the past 60 years were cause for lamentation on human rights progress, Khan was optimistic that a glimmer of hope still existed, saying that history shows stability comes through respect for human rights.
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