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Amnesty International Annual Report: Human Rights Under Attack More Than Ever

A placard is hung on a fence as migrants make their way inside the premises of a former Olympic indoor stadium in Faliro, southern Athens, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. AP

Human rights are fast becoming a casualty in the drive to wipe out fanatical groups like ISIS and Boko Haram.

That was grim warning from the head of Amnesty International on Tuesday as the watchdog group released its annual report on the state of human rights around the world.

"What is unique to 2015 is that we are worried the very system that is protecting human rights around the world is itself under threat," said Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty.

Their report contains some alarming arithmetic:

  • At least 113 countries arbitrarily restricted freedom of expression and the press
  • More than 60 million people were misplaced from their homes worldwide, many had been displaced for several years or longer.
  • 30 or more countries illegally forced refugees to return to places where they would be in danger
  • Armed groups committed human rights abuses in at least 36 countries.
  • 61 or more countries locked up prisoners of conscience.
  • 122 or more countries tortured people.
  • War crimes or other violations of the "laws of war" were carried out in at least 19 countries.
  • At least 55 percent of countries conducted unfair trials.

Shetty said they've detected an "insidious and creeping attempt to dismantle" the seven-decade old system to protect human rights worldwide. Basic rights are in danger of being trampled by governments locked in battles with terrorist groups, he warned.

"The actions of these groups cannot be used as justification for any government to violate human rights or international law for short term gain," he said.

Even in countries usually supportive of human rights, citizens should not take their right to privacy, free speech of free assembly for granted.

"They are all up for grabs," Shetty said.

John Dalhuisen, who is Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia Director, noted that France's response to the Paris massacre in November was "repressive counter-terrorism and intrusive surveillance methods." He said Hungary and the Scandinavian counties have "decided that protection of their borders is more important than the protection of the rights of refugees."

There is a "preponderance of leaders who consider the cost of respecting human rights outweigh the benefits," Dalhuisen said.

In the U.S., black men who speak out against injustice get shut down all too often, Shetty said.

"The most visible issue last year has been the excessive use of force against black youth who raise their voice," he said.

Asked about President Obama's announcement that he will try to finally close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Shetty said he would believe it when it happens.

"The other big issue, which is a global issue, which the U.S. really kind of championed, is the use of mass surveillance," he said. "It is a big concern which we think is a big attack on human rights."