Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump must use their upcoming summit in Helsinki to tackle the world’s most urgent human rights issues and restore their nations’ credibility as responsible international players, Amnesty International said ahead of the meeting between the Russian and US presidents in Finland’s capital on Monday.
The organization calls on the two leaders to put the international refugee situation and the war in Syria at the top of their agenda during the summit, as well as violations taking place in their own countries.
“Presidents Putin and Trump have been toxic for human rights. Their respective policies have resulted in broken families, children being held in cages, continuing atrocities in a prolonged war in Syria and the torture and killing of LGBTI people in Chechnya, to name just a few of the horrors that have unfolded under their watch,” said Anna Neistat, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.
“But both presidents still have time to change the course of history and make a difference, and this summit is an opportunity to act as leaders of compassion and fairness. They can start by addressing the forced displacement of over 12 million people as a result of the war in Syria – a situation that both men have wilfully ignored until now.”
Russia has made it almost impossible for Syrians to be recognized as refugees in the country, granting refugee status to only two Syrian nationals since 2011, while the Trump administration has just set the USA’s lowest refugee admissions bar in years.
Putin and Trump have a choice: they can help end bloodshed in Syria, or they can choose to look away from the human suffering their policies have caused.Amnesty International's Anna Neistat
Meanwhile, both Presidents Putin and Trump have been responsible for deaths of civilians in Syria. Russia continues to assist the Syrian government in commiting war crimes and the US-led coalition has failed to acknowledge the extent of the killing and injury of civilians it has caused in Raqqa.
The leaders have also inflicted suffering at home. Under President Putin’s watch there has been a dramatic clampdown on human rights, including torture in police stations and prisons, state-sponsored homophobia and extreme violence towards LGBTI people in Chechnya.
Russia is also responsible for numerous human rights violations in Ukraine, such as the continued imprisonment of Oleg Sentsov, the film director from Russian-occupied Crimea who has been on hunger strike for the past two months in protest against the politically motivated jailing of dozens of Ukrainians in Russia.
President Trump, meanwhile, has overseen the forcible separation of thousands of children from their families trying to cross the US/Mexico border after fleeing violence and persecution in Central America.
“Putin and Trump have a choice: they can help end bloodshed in Syria and protect the rights of their own citizens, or they can choose to look away from the human suffering their policies have either caused or exacerbated,” said Anna Neistat.
“But failure to act with humanity and accountability will deepen the indelible stain on the record of both leaders.”