Global indifference is fuelling atrocities across the Middle East, rights watchdog Amnesty International warned Tuesday in a report condemning what it called growing impunity.
“The crackdown on civil society actors and political opponents increased significantly in Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia,” the rights watchdog said in its annual regional report.
“Is it acceptable for activists to undergo arbitrary detention, torture, sexual harassment … and even enforced disappearances simply for expressing their opinions in a peaceful way,” Amnesty’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, Heba Morayef told a press conference in Beirut on Tuesday.
The annual report said “global indifference to human rights violations” had fuelled “atrocities and impunity” in the region in 2018.
It cited the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul On October 2, saying the “case has not been followed by concrete action to ensure those responsible for his murder are brought to justice.”
It applauded “rare action” from countries like Denmark or Germany which suspended arms supplies to Riyadh, but noted that “key allies of the kingdom, including the U.S., U.K., and France, have taken no such action.”
Amnesty also denounced Riyadh’s military intervention in Yemen, saying the Saudi-led coalition battling rebels is “responsible for war crimes” and has contributed to a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the embattled country.
"Almost ten million people are only one step away from famine.
Children did not start the war, but they are paying the highest price.
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) February 26, 2019
And it condemned Israel’s crackdown on demonstrations in Gaza and the West Bank, which it says has killed “at least 195 Palestinians, including 41 children.”
Iran also came under fire for its repression of mass demonstrations to protest deteriorating socio-economic conditions.
“Security forces violently dispersed the protests, beating unarmed protesters and using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons against them, causing deaths and injuries,” it said.
Arab Spring Backlash
The “intense crackdown on dissident voices” in a number of Arab countries is linked to the 2011 Arab uprisings, said Morayef.
“Authoritarian governments today are trying to make very, very sure that there is no political space to ever allow such an uprising to occur again”, she said.
‘Indiscriminate’ Air Strikes
The Amnesty report also denounced “war crimes” committed in Syria, Libya, and Yemen, which have been ravaged by deadly conflicts and humanitarian catastrophes.
In the three countries, “military forces with air power carried out indiscriminate air strikes and direct attacks on civilian homes, hospitals and medical facilities, sometimes using internationally banned cluster munitions,” Amnesty said.
“Allies of governments in the region have always placed lucrative trade agreements, security cooperation, or multi-billion dollar arms sales ahead of human rights,” Yemen researcher at Amnesty, Rasha Mohamed told the press conference.
‘Glimmers of Hope’
The rights group pointed however to some positive developments in the region which it said serve as “glimmers of hope”.
Across the Maghreb, provisions to combat violence against women have come into effect.
In Saudi Arabia, authorities lifted a driving ban on women “even as they imprisoned women human rights defenders who had campaigned for this very right,” Amnesty said.
More on the Subject
The United States House of Representatives last week passed a war powers resolution that seeks to end American military support for the Saudi- led coalition in Yemen.
Democrats speaking in favor of the resolution argued that support for the coalition makes the U.S. complicit in what the U.N. has deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Senator Bernie Sanders told CBS in December that there was renewed support for the legislation after the assassination of Washington Post Jamal Khashoggi put a political spotlight on the U.S. partnership with Saudi Arabia and its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.