Blimey, what a year. And here’s my take on it. In this two-part post – one today, one tomorrow – I’m giving you my top ten human rights stories from 2010.
In no particular order – only rough chronology – here then are the first five. Tune in tomorrow for the next quintet. 1: In April the UK’s human rights record came under heavy attack when it was revealed (by Amnesty!) that the UK was a Europe-wide “leader” in its promotion of "diplomatic assurances". These are so-called “no-torture” deals allowing the government – recklessly – to claim that it is able to deport foreign nationals suspected of terrorism to countries even when there is a risk of torture or other human rights abuse. Relatedly, the UK authorities spent much of 2010 either defending or reviewing its much-criticised (including by the UK’s most senior judges) regime of house arrest-like "control orders". They remain in place. 2: In May Israel’s maritime military raid on a “flotilla” of ships carrying aid and international activists attempting to breach Israel’s economic blockade of Gaza led to the deaths of nine people and wide criticism of Israel’s tactics. It also led to new pressure on Israel to end the blockade. Israel responded with a much-trumpeted “easing” programme, itself the subject of fresh criticism by 26 human rights and humanitarian organisations before the year was out. 3: In May the new UK coalition government’s announcement that there would be an inquiry into alleged UK involvement in the mistreatment of detainees overseas was very significant – and very welcome – news. One of the people sure to feature in the inquiry is Shaker Aamer, subject of a “fair trial or safe release” campaign from Amnesty. After nearly nine years he remains – uncharged and untried – at Guantánamo. 4: While much of the world was glued to TV coverage of the World Cup in the summer parts of the central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan erupted into ethnic violence. Hundreds were killed. Last week an Amnesty report criticised the authorities for dealing with the aftermath along ethnic lines (discriminating against ethnic Uzbeks), thus heightening the risk of long-term bitterness and even a recurrence of violence. 5: From July the campaign to stop the Iranian authorities from stoning to death Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for the “offence” of adultery became an international cause célèbre (literally: Robert De Niro, Juliette Binoche, Robert Redford and Colin Firth among others highlighted the case). The campaign continues, but sadly in December Iran executed Shahla Jahed, the wife of a well-known Iranian footballer who was murdered in 2002. At least 200 other people were also executed in Iran during the year. That’s it today. Another five tomorrow. And meanwhile, check out this excellent Amnesty USA round-up of the year as it concerns the US death penalty (and if you haven’t already, also have a look at this video of the very clever Troy Davis “lenticular” art work on some London street railings).
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