LONDON (Hurriyet)–Amnesty International on Thursday called on the United States, Turkey, China and Russia to sign on to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in a hard-hitting report, alleging that powerful governments have blocked advances in global justice.
The four countries and three other G20 nations – India, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia – must drop their opposition to the ICC, Amnesty said, as it unveiled its annual snapshot of global human rights.
“China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey and the U.S. have stood aside from – if not deliberately undermined – international justice efforts,” interim Secretary-General Claudio Cordone told The Associated Press. Cordone also said the group wanted “to ensure that no one is above the law.”
“Our report shows that powerful states hold themselves above the law and protect their allies so justice is only served when expedient,” he said. The group said no country could justify its refusal to fully sign up to the ICC – the only independent, permanent court with authority to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
However, Cordone told Agence France-Presse he was confident that the initially fierce U.S. opposition to the court was lessening under President Barack Obama. “We feel that such opposition may be softening,” he said in an interview. “If governments are serious about justice, then they realize this court is operating to proper human rights standards and there should be no reason why it shouldn’t be supported. So in the end I am optimistic that the United States will join the court.”
Amnesty also accused the United States, Russia and China of ignoring human rights violations by allies and failing to open their own records to scrutiny in an annual survey meant to pressure governments to act more compassionately.
Criticism over refugees
Turkey was criticized along with Ukraine for forcing refugees and asylum seekers to return to countries where they might not be safe from human rights violations.
In August, the group wrote to the Turkish Interior Ministry expressing concern that the authorities continued to enforce fees for refugees’ and asylum-seekers’ residence permits, which prevented access to economic and social rights, such as health services, education, adequate housing and work. Despite statements from officials to representatives of NGOs in Turkey that the imposition of fees would end, the fees continued as of the end of December, Amnesty said in report called Summary of Amnesty International’s Concerns in Turkey.
While hailing the ICC’s arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over alleged war crimes in Darfur last year as a “landmark,” Amnesty condemned the African Union for refusing to act on it. Turkey was also criticized by the group’s Turkey report in March over its approach to war crimes in Darfur. It also condemned Turkey’s invitation to al-Bashir to attend a meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference due to be held in Turkey, even though he is wanted by the ICC on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The report also criticized Turkey and others on freedom of expression, saying: “Space for independent voices and civil society shrank in parts of Europe and Central Asia, and there were unfair restrictions on freedom of expression in Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Uzbekistan.”
Amnesty also criticized the European Union on human rights and said the bloc isn’t living up to its commitments on human rights, citing the EU’s tolerance of CIA rendition flights and secret detention programs.
It also accused Israel of continually violating human rights in Gaza with its ongoing economic siege. Amnesty complained that the United States and members of the European Union had obstructed international justice by using their positions on the U.N. Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war. The group’s report listed examples of what it said were war crimes committed by Israeli forces, but did not provide details of sources.