US Secretary of State John Kerry released the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2015 [text] on Wednesday, pointing to “a global governance crisis” in is prefatory statement. The secretary cited the “accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors … to marginalize opposition voices, and in the most extreme cases, to kill people or drive them from their homes.” The secretary listed various grim examples of human rights abuses committed in 2015, including “criminal acts by non-state actors such as Da’esh, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, the Taliban, transnational criminal organizations, ” genocide and crimes against humanity directed against religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, jailing of reporters for writing critical stories about the government, and the closure of non-governmental organizations for promoting universal human rights. The secretary also highlighted from the report “the troubling trend among some elected leaders who undermined existing democratic institutions, such as by taking steps to stifle opposition, circumvent the electoral process, and weaken judiciaries, often in an attempt to perpetuate their continued rule.” Finally, the secretary also pointed to corruption concerns. According to Kerry, “Institutions lose credibility when people can no longer expect a fair and impartial judiciary to address their grievances, obtain basic government services without a bribe, or participate in the political process without their franchise being undermined by corruption. People must have faith in their institutions in order for societies to thrive.” Despite the largely grim outlook outlined by the report the Secretary stressed that this must “strengthen our resolve to promote fundamental freedoms, to support human rights defenders, and to document and promote accountability for violations of human rights … because it is right and because it reinforces our interest in a more peaceful world.”
In February Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] released [JURIST report] its Annual Report 2015/16 [text], a summary of an international survey of human rights concluding that “short-term national self-interest and draconian security crackdowns have led to a wholesale assault on basic freedoms and rights.” AI attributed much of this failure to a lack of accountability in the international system, as the UN and other intergovernmental bodies are largely unable to enforce human rights without the consent of the nations involved. In January Human Rights Watch released a report [JURIST report] discussing human rights issues in more than 90 countries throughout 2015. World Report 2016, the rights group’s twenty-sixth edition of the report, which spanned 659 pages, included short summaries of important rights topics before breaking down rights concerns by country. One major theme of this report was the treatment of refugees worldwide, especially those driven out of Syria by the Islamic State, calling Europe’s approach to refugees counter productive.