The rise of populist leaders in the United States and Europe poses a dangerous threat to basic rights protections while encouraging abuse by autocrats around the world, Human Rights Watch said today in launching its World Report 2017. Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk.
Governments sharply restricted the ability of people to exercise their civil and political rights, which are essential in themselves and crucial to promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. This landscape calls for courage, clarity of conviction, compassion and an unwavering focus on our service to victims, human rights defenders, people vulnerable to abuses and humanity as a whole.
Human Rights Watch was founded as a private American NGO in 1978, under the name Helsinki Watch, to monitor the former Soviet Union’s compliance with the Helsinki Accords. Helsinki Watch adopted a practice of publicly “naming and shaming” abusive governments through media coverage and through direct exchanges with policymakers. By shining the international spotlight on human rights violations in the Soviet Union and its European partners, Helsinki Watch contributed to the democratic transformations
Amnesty International was founded in London in July 1961 by English labour lawyer Peter Benenson. According to his own account, he was travelling in the London Underground on 19 November 1960, when he read that two Portuguese students from Coimbra had been sentenced to seven years of imprisonment in Portugal for allegedly “having drunk a toast to liberty”. Researchers have never traced the alleged newspaper article in question. In 1960, Portugal was ruled by the Estado Novo government of António de Oliveira Salazar. The government was authoritarian in nature and strongly anti-communist, suppressing enemies of the state as anti-Portuguese. In his significant newspaper article “The Forgotten Prisoners”, Benenson later described his reaction as follows…