Amnesty International Annual Report 2017/18

You said no to hate. You said no to fear.

The year in pictures

GAMBIA: To celebrate the inauguration of Gambian President Adama Barrow, jubilant supporters gathered at the Independence Stadium in Bakau. President Adama Barrow has made big promises to free political prisoners, remove repressive laws and bring Gambia back to the International Criminal Court.
BELARUS: Belarusian authorities arrested dozens of peaceful protesters and journalists in a massive escalation of their crackdown on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The “We are not spongers” marches were called against a so-called “social parasite” tax imposed on unemployed people.
UK: In a symbol of Birmingham’s defiance of the far-right, Saffiyah Khan (left) took a stand against English Defence League (EDL) protester Ian Crossland. The photograph, taken in the wake of the Westminster attack, was shared widely. Saffiyah stepped in to defend a woman wearing a hijab.
BRAZIL: Demonstrators took to the streets of São Paulo, Brazil, to protest against the government of President Michel Temer and to demand the end of austerity reforms centered on cuts in the pension system. The flag reads, “General Elections now!”
SYRIA: In April 2017, a chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, killed more than 80 people and injured hundreds of people as they slept in their beds. Survivors of the attack, including many children, bravely gathered together to protest against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Idilb’s town square.
TAIWAN: A landmark ruling by Taiwan’s highest court meant the country was one step closer to becoming the first in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. Later in the year, tens of thousands marched in Asia’s largest gay pride parade in celebration.
HUNGARY: Hundreds of activists gathered in solidarity during a protest in Budapest. The aim was to take a stand against those trying to intimidate civil society, as Amnesty International, among others, refused to comply with the repressive new NGO law.
INDIA: Following a wave of deadly attacks on Muslims – including the lynching of teenager Junaid – citizens and celebrities from India hit the streets in support of the campaign “Not In My Name”.
RUSSIA: Thousands of Russians called for an end to corruption. However, the peaceful protests descended into violence, as hundreds of people were arrested and numerous others beaten by police, demonstrating the authorities’ contempt for human rights.
CHILE: A decision by Chile moved to support the decriminalization of abortion under three circumstances was met with joy from pro-choice activists. They celebrated this important win for human rights and for the protection of the lives and health of women and girls across the country.
USA: In a bid to heal, students and Charlottesville residents marched peacefully through the University of Virginia Campus, carrying candles to mourn the loss of three people who died after a white nationalist rally turned violent days earlier.
VENEZUELA: Having being denied access to food, clean water, healthcare and shelter, Venezuelans took to the streets to demonstrate against President Nicolas Maduro and his government. The rally ended violently, with a member of riot security appearing to point a pistol towards a crowd of demonstrators.
PHILIPPINES: President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” campaign led to as many as 12,000 deaths. Activists have continued to campaign during the deadly ordeal, through rallies and demonstrations. The International Criminal Court (ICC) has now opened a preliminary investigation into the campaign.
BANGLADESH: Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled crimes against humanity in Rakhine State, Myanmar, as an estimated 600,000 people sought safety in Bangladesh. Whole families, young mothers and unaccompanied minors were among those fleeing for their lives when fighting reignited in Myanmar.
USA: President Trump sparked further controversy after he criticised athletes who don’t stand for the National Anthem. In response to his comments, over 200 footballers knelt, sat or prayed before their NFL games in a show of solidarity.
KENYA: Heavily armed police used unlawful force against protesters and bystanders in the western city of Kisumu in what appeared to be a deliberate campaign to punish inhabitants for continuing to protest amid chaotic elections.
SPAIN: National Police force’s Police Intervention Unit and Civil Guard officers used excessive force against demonstrators who were passively resisting in the streets and at the entrances to polling stations. The security forces were acting on the ruling of the High Court of Justice of Catalonia, which ordered them to prevent the holding of a referendum.
GREECE: Reports revealed that European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya. Protesters took a stand across the world in a bid to denounce the practice.
AUSTRALIA: People, many of whom are refugees, took to the Immigration and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade building in Sydney to demand the immediate evacuation of refugees detained on Manus Island.
NETHERLANDS: The conviction of former Bosnian Serb war leader, General Ratko Mladić, for crimes under international law, finally delivered justice to tens of thousands of the victims of 1992-95 armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the trial in The Hague came to a close.
YEMEN: The devastating war in Yemen continued to tear families apart. Muhammad Mansour (being carried out of the house) was killed in a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa. His daughter Buthaina Muhammad Mansour survived the attack, but eight family members, including five children, were killed, relatives said.
SRI LANKA: During a speech at the White House, President Donald Trump announced plans to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The announcement was met with disbelief and outrage across the world, including in Sri Lanka. However, people refused to be silenced as many gathered to protest against the announcement.

World leaders abandon human rights

In 2017, the world witnessed a rollback of human rights. Signs of a regression were everywhere. Across the world governments continued to clampdown on the rights to protest, and women’s rights took a nosedive in the USA, Russia and Poland.

From Venezuela to Tunisia, we witnessed the growth of a formidable social discontent, as people were denied access to their fundamental human rights to food, clean water, healthcare and shelter.

And from the US to the European Union and Australia, leaders of wealthy countries continued to approach the global refugee crisis with outright callousness, regarding refugees not as human beings with rights but as problems to be deflected. 

In this climate, state-sponsored hate threatens to normalise discrimination against minority groups. Xenophobic slogans at a nationalist march in Warsaw, Poland and sweeping crackdowns on LGBTI communities from Chechnya to Egypt showed how the open advocacy of intolerance is increasing.

Prominent among a sea of stories that caused shock were the horrific reports of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar’s military against its Rohingya population. The stories captured by our researchers were utterly heartbreaking. 

“Shafi, my two-year-old son, he was hit hard with a wooden stick. One hit, and he was dead … Three of my children were killed,” said one woman, whose money, possessions – and children – were taken by soldiers.

But with few leaders willing to stand up for human rights on a global stage, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed from Myanmar to Iraq have gone ignored, making the world a more dangerous place.


Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar for Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Women’s Marches took place around the world
Human rights defenders killed in 2017

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Protecting our right to free speech takes on colossal importance

Last year saw a record numbers of individuals come under attack for taking a stand against injustice. As a global organisation dedicated to fighting for human rights, we did not escape attack. Our own staff in Turkey were arrested and jailed on entirely baseless charges. While İdil Eser, Director of Amnesty Turkey, has been released,  Taner Kılıç the chair of Amnesty Turkey, remains in prison.

Imagine being a lawyer, journalist or activist, whose life is under threat for telling the truth.  

In 2018, we cannot take for granted that we will be free to gather together in protest or to criticize our governments. In fact, speaking out is becoming more dangerous.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

That is exactly what is happening right now, as authorities aggressively pursue people who have stood up for human rights. These activists are being killed in staggering numbers, with more than 312 killings recorded in 2017, up from 281 the year before.

Despite the efforts of governments to shut down NGOs, undermine the media, take away people’s right to protest and jail campaigners, people refused to be silenced. And in this climate of fear and intimidation, it is all the more vital that we continue to speak out.

Get the Amnesty International Report 2017/18


People power and solidarity

People are angry, and rightly so, at the extraordinary anti-rights rhetoric being peddled by prominent leaders. It is no surprise therefore that one of the largest protests for human rights in history – the Women’s March – took place last year, and set the scene for the year to come.

With each and every protest, people proved they are passionate about defending institutions that uphold human rights.

In Poland, serious threats to the independence of the judiciary brought incredible numbers of people onto the streets. Globally, the #MeToo phenomenon and Latin America’s “Ni Una Menos” – denouncing femicide and violence against women and girls – showcased the massive pull of social movements. Across the world activists scored important human rights victories, including lifting the total ban on abortion in Chile, achieving a step towards marriage equality in Taiwan and one by one, removing laws in Tunisia, Jordan and Lebanon that allowed rapists to escape justice.   

But the fight is not over.

We’re making history, as people rise up and demand justice in greater numbers – and the onus is on the government to show they are listening. Join us now and make your voice heard.


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