Amnesty says West's Ukraine response exposes 'double standards' when upholding human rights

Amnesty says West's Ukraine response exposes 'double standards' when upholding human rights
Amnesty International has called out the West for their 'double standards' when it comes to aiding Ukrainians but failing to fight for justice and human rights elsewhere in the world, such as in Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Palestine.
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'Across the world, authorities continued their heavy-handed repression of universal freedoms,' said Amnesty's report [source: Getty]

Outrage over Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year has exposed the West's "double standards" towards human rights abuses throughout the world, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

In its annual world report for 2022, Amnesty pointed to what it described as the West's silence on Saudi Arabia's rights record, repression in Egypt and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

"The West's formidable response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine underscored double standards, exposing in comparison how inconsequential their reactions have been to so many other violations of the UN Charter," said Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard as she presented the group's world report in Paris.

Russia's full-scale assault, which began on February 24, 2022, "gave us an all too rare view of what becomes possible when there is political will to act" as the West closed ranks to support Ukraine, she added.

Many countries imposed sanctions on Moscow and opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees after the invasion, while the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.

But Amnesty said the conflict had highlighted shortcomings in responding to abuses in other parts of the globe.

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It singled out the West's "deafening silence on Saudi Arabia's human rights record, inaction on Egypt and the refusal to confront Israel's system of apartheid against Palestinians".

Amnesty, fellow rights watchdog Human Rights Watch and a UN special rapporteur have concluded that Israel's treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid, or segregation on grounds of race, a charge the Israeli state denies.

Last year, "successive Israeli governments rolled out measures forcing more Palestinians from their homes, expanding illegal settlements, and legalising existing settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank", Amnesty said.

But despite this - and despite Israeli forces killing "at least 153 civilians, including dozens of children" in the occupied West Bank - Western nations failed to demand an end to that "system of oppression", it said.

In Saudi Arabia, human rights activists continued to languish in prison, people were jailed for their opinions after "grossly unfair trials", 81 men were put to death in a single day, and migrants died in custody.

In Egypt, the group said, thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, protesters and alleged dissidents lingered behind bars, and "torture remained rampant".

Although European countries welcomed Ukrainian refugees, they did not show the same kindness to people fleeing fighting in Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, Amnesty said.

The United States also welcomed Ukrainians, "yet under policies and practices rooted in anti-Black racism, it expelled more than 25,000 Haitians between September 2021 and May 2022, and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment", the group said.

Amnesty also stressed the failure of global institutions "to respond adequately to conflicts killing thousands of people, including in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen".

"The deadliest conflict in 2022 was not in Ukraine but in Ethiopia," said Callamard, "away from world's attention".

All in all, the war in Ukraine "diverted resources and attention away from the climate crisis, other long-standing conflicts and human suffering the world over", Amnesty said.

Last year was dismal for women's rights too.

The US Supreme Court overturned the right to abortion, while in Poland a woman was put on trial for "helping with an abortion" in "the very first time in Europe that an activist has been charged for providing abortion pills".

In Iran, "women died for dancing, for singing, for not wearing a veil" as people rose up in protests against the country's Islamic system, Callamard said.

In Afghanistan, under the Taliban, women were turned into "mere objects to be treated in any way a man desires, and with utter impunity".

Yet "there was no evidence to be found in 2022, that the international response to the Ukraine crisis would become a blueprint for consistent and coherent responses to conflicts and crises", she said.