Human Rights Watch: The politics of fear led governments around the globe to roll back human rights during 2015.
In the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.
“Fear of terrorist attacks and mass refugee flows are driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections,” Roth said. “These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people.”
Significant refugee flows to Europe, spurred largely by the Syrian conflict, coupled with broadening attacks on civilians in the name of the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), have led to growing fear-mongering and Islamophobia, Human Rights Watch said. But as European governments close borders, they are reviving old patterns of shirking responsibility for refugees by passing the problem to countries on Europe’s periphery that are less equipped to house or protect refugees. The emphasis on the potential threat posed by refugees is also distracting European governments from addressing their homegrown terrorist threats and the steps needed to avoid social marginalization of disaffected populations.
Policymakers in the United States have used the terrorism threat to try to reverse recent modest restrictions on intelligence agencies’ ability to engage in mass surveillance, while the United Kingdom and France have sought to expand monitoring powers. That would significantly undermine privacy rights without any demonstrated increase in the ability to curb terrorism. Indeed, in a number of recent attacks in Europe, the perpetrators were known to law enforcement authorities, but the police were too overwhelmed to follow up, suggesting that what’s needed is not more mass data but more capacity to pursue targeted leads, Human Rights Watch said.
“The tarring of entire immigrant or minority communities, wrong in itself, is also dangerous,” Roth said. “Vilifying whole communities for the actions of a few generates precisely the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit.” [Continue reading...]