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Human rights report sets out abuses worldwide

31 January 2014

by Helen Pye


Spotlight: a woman in Sochi, on the Black Sea, points to the Caucasus Mountains, as the city prepares to host the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in February and March respectively 

Spotlight: a woman in Sochi, on the Black Sea, points to the Caucasus Mountains, as the city prepares to host the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Game...

THE conflict in Syria, LGBT rights in Russia, and lack of aid for refugees in Africa are the biggest human-rights issues on the planet, the 2014 World Report, released by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday of last week, suggests.

The executive director of HRW, Kenneth Roth, said that Syria was "by far the deadliest armed conflict of 2013". The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict between the government and rebel fighters up to July 2013, and 4.25 million Syrians internally displaced.

Mr Roth said that "the international community's response was "diplomatic complacency about the Syrian government's largely unimpeded, murderous strategy for Syrian civilians."

The report called the situation globally for refugees "catastrophic because of their limited access to humanitarian assistance". The Central African Republic was highlighted in the document as one of the worst locations for refugees' receiving humanitarian aid.

The UN estimates that about 170,000 people fled fighting in the north of the country in September 2013, and most were left to fend for themselves without any international aid.

Figures throughout the document draw attention to the plight of internally displaced people, and the huge numbers forced to flee to neighbouring nations worldwide.

Russia was criticised for its anti-LGBT laws and its new freedom of expression Bill. The introduction of laws in June 2013 banning the promotion of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" to children, and banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples was condemned as a violation against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Also in June 2013, President Putin implemented a law imposing a maximum three-year prison sentence for publicly "insult[ing] the feelings of religious believers". Human-rights activists say they fear how this could be interpreted in the country.

Improvements and abuses to women's rights were highlighted in the document. The removal of restrictions on polygamy in Libya, and the continuing practice of female genital mutilation in Egypt were contrasted with the first woman to be allowed to train as a lawyer in Saudi Arabia, and the easing of conditions for Chinese couples to have a second child.

Afghanistan repeatedly weakened the status and rights of women in 2013. It made a parliamentary decision to reduce the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and introduced laws to ban family member testimony in criminal cases, which makes prosecution for domestic violence and forced marriage difficult.

The 2014 World Report is the organisation's 23rd annual review of the status of human rights around the world. Edward Snowden's NSA revelations, and abuses of democracy in Egypt were also among the issues highlighted in the report.

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