Rulers ‘downplay’ Arab Spring

Rulers ‘downplay’ Arab Spring

Rulers ‘downplay’ Arab Spring

Egyptian anti-government activists clash with riot police in Cairo in this file photo. Thousands of anti-government protesters have poured into the streets of Egypt, demanding more political freedoms. AP photo

Amnesty International warned of another year of protests and government repression in the Middle East if the region’s rulers do not ensure democratic and human rights for their people.

In a report titled “Year of Rebellion: State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa” released yesterday about the 2011 Arab uprisings, the organization detailed the harsh measures governments across the region used to suppress protests, calling for democratic reforms and greater freedoms. It also noted that activists across the region have refused to accept bogus promises and appear unlikely to give up their demands.

“With few exceptions, governments have failed to recognize that everything has changed, protesters have shown that they will not be fooled by reforms that make little difference to the way they are treated by the police and security forces,” said Philip Luther, the group’s interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. “They want concrete changes to the way they are governed and for those responsible for past crimes to be held to account.” The 80-page report said Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where popular uprisings succeeded in toppling longtime dictators, still need to ensure that democratic gains are solidified so that past abuses are not repeated.

It called on Egypt’s military rulers, who took control of the country after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, to respect the right of protesters to express their views peacefully. The report slammed the rights abuses of military leaders, calling them worse in some respects than under the former president and warning of possible attempts to further restrict freedom of expression.
[HH] Patterns of killings in Syria

It said Tunisia should ensure that its new constitution, to be drafted this year, protects human rights. The report also criticized Libya’s interim authorities for failing to control the armed brigades that helped oust Moammar Gadhafi or bring to trial an estimated 7,000 detainees being held by the brigades in makeshift centers.

In countries where uprisings have failed to cause such sweeping changes, the report said governments have resorted to harsh tactics to preserve power. It said thousands had been killed in government crackdowns in Syria, while Yemeni security forces had killed at least 200 protesters. Tens of thousands have been displaced in Yemen, aggravating humanitarian conditions in the Arab world’s poorest country.

Amnesty accused the Syrian army and intelligence services of “a pattern of killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity, in a vain attempt to terrify protesters and opponents into silence and submission.”

The group called the response of international bodies like the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League “inconsistent,” saying they had taken strong stands for human rights in some countries more than in others. “Support from world powers for ordinary people in the region has been typically patchy,” Luther said. But the group lauded protesters, saying they had been more effective than international powers in driving change.

“What has been striking about the last year has been that, with some exceptions, change has largely been achieved through the efforts of local people coming onto the streets, not the influence and involvement of foreign powers,” Luther said.

Compiled from AFP and AP stories by the Daily News staff.

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