Global outrage over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year has only served to expose the West’s “double standards” towards human rights abuses throughout the world, Amnesty International said on March 28. In its annual world report for 2022, Amnesty pointed to what it described as the West’s silence on Saudi Arabia’s rights record, repression in Egypt, and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
“The West’s formidable response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underscored double standards, exposing in comparison how inconsequential their reactions have been to so many other violations of the UN Charter,” said Amnesty secretary general Agnes Callamard as she presented the group’s world report in Paris.
Russia’s assault that began on February 24, 2022 “gave us an all too rare view of what becomes possible when there is political will to act” as the West closed ranks to support Ukraine, she added.
Many countries imposed sanctions on Moscow and opened their borders to Ukrainian refugees after the invasion, while the International Criminal Court launched an investigation into war crimes in Ukraine.
But Amnesty said the conflict had highlighted shortcomings in responding to abuses in other parts of the globe. It singled out the West’s “deafening silence on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, inaction on Egypt, and the refusal to confront Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians”.
Amnesty, fellow rights watchdog Human Rights Watch, and a UN special rapporteur have concluded that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to policies of apartheid, the segregation of black people and whites in white-ruled South Africa, a charge the Israeli state denies.
Last year, “successive Israeli governments rolled out measures forcing more Palestinians from their homes, expanding illegal settlements, and legalising existing settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank,” Amnesty said.
But despite this—and Israeli forces killing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank—Western nations failed to demand an end to that “system of oppression”, it said.
In Saudi Arabia, human rights activists continued to languish in prison, people were jailed for their opinions after “grossly unfair trials”, 81 men were put to death in a single day, and migrants died in custody. In Egypt, the group said, thousands of human rights defenders, journalists, protesters, and alleged dissidents lingered behind bars, and “torture remained rampant”.
Although European countries welcomed Ukrainian refugees, they did not show the same kindness to people fleeing fighting in Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya, Amnesty said. The United States also welcomed Ukrainians, “yet under policies and practices rooted in anti-Black racism, it expelled more than 25,000 Haitians between September 2021 and May 2022, and subjected many to torture and other ill-treatment”, the group said.
In Iran “women died for dancing, for singing, for not wearing a veil” as people rose up in protests against the country’s Islamic system, Callamard said.
Amnesty also stressed the failure of global institutions “to respond adequately to conflicts killing thousands of people including in Ethiopia, Myanmar and Yemen”. The war in Ukraine “diverted resources and attention away from the climate crisis, other long-standing conflicts and human suffering the world over,” Amnesty said.
“There was no evidence to be found in 2022, that the international response to the Ukraine crisis would become a blueprint for consistent and coherent responses to conflicts and crises,” said Callamard.