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Threats to human rights

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The Human Rights Watch (HRW) world report for 2024 saw the past 12 months as grim for human rights, as world leaders ignored violations in Sudan and Gaza, and against marginalized groups like the Uyghurs in China.

HRW singled out “tremendous suffering” caused by the Israel-Hamas war, and the conflicts in Ukraine, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and the Sahel region of Africa. It pointed out the war in Gaza, where “Israel’s government responded by cutting water and electricity to Gaza’s 2.3 million civilians and blocking the entry of all but a trickle of fuel, food, and humanitarian aid – a form of collective punishment that is a war crime,” the report said.

The report also pointed to damage done by climate change and economic inequality, as wildfires, drought, and storms wreaked havoc on communities from Bangladesh to Libya to Canada.

“The international system that we rely on to protect human rights is under threat as world leaders look the other way when universal principles of human rights are violated,” said the New York-based rights watchdog chief Tirana Hassan.

The report gave the example of what it said was a double standard among governments, mostly Western, which condemned the Hamas attacks on Israel of October 7, but held back in criticism of Israel’s war against Hamas.

It added that as well as being a “formidable year” for human rights suppression and wartime atrocities, the past 12 months had seen “selective government outrage and transactional diplomacy that carried profound costs for the rights of those not in on the deal.” That inequality chips away at trust in the institutions responsible for enforcing and protecting rights.

Hassan said “when Western States and members of the EU turn a blind eye to human rights abuses… that is nothing short of hypocrisy.”

The concept of human rights being universal is constantly being tested, ironically this time, it is not by the violators, but by selective application and double standards, even from world leaders. Our human rights may be safe right now, but if those same rights are allowed to be trampled in other places or peoples, it will only be a matter of time before our own rights are in danger.

That is what human rights groups are fighting for and worried about right now, and if they are losing the fight, humanity might end up being the biggest losers in the long run.*

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