HRW Report: ‘Politics of Intolerance’ threatens rights

Alwaght- Human Rights Watch has published the World Report 2016 criticizing Western countries over their response to terrorism and the refugee crisis.  

Closed Doors

Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that terrorist attacks and the increased flow of refugees escaping oppression and conflict have pushed several governments to limit rights in erroneous attempts spurred by misdirected fear, namely Islamophobia, to maintain their security.

“Fear of terrorist attacks and mass refugee flows are driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections,” Roth said. “These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people.”

Islamophobia, fuelled by the terrorist ISIS attacks against civilians in Western states—misrepresenting the religion which they claim to follow when they are practicing Wahhabism instead—has become the motive for governments to blame refugees for the violence they are running from.

Human Rights Watch said European governments who are shutting the borders to prevent Syrian refugees from settling in their countries are leaving less equipped states to house them. By treating all refugees like they pose a threat, not only are they marginalizing them but they are also distracting themselves from their home grown terrorist groups.

“The tarring of entire immigrant or minority communities, wrong in itself, is also dangerous…Vilifying whole communities for the actions of a few generates precisely the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit,” Roth said.

Another humanitarian crisis stimulated by Europe’s response to the refugee issue is the risk people are taking to reach Europe by any means, most deadly of which is sailing by flimsy boats across the Mediterranean. In addition to the numerous deaths of asylum seekers due to this perilous journey, terrorists exploiting this illegal way of entering Europe is another dangerous result. Instead of forcing refugees to resort to this immigration means, providing a legal system would be more fruitful, according to HRW.

“Creating a safe and orderly way for refugees to make their way to Europe would reduce lives lost at sea while helping immigration officials to screen out security risks, increasing security for everyone,” Roth explained.

Invasion of Privacy and Civil Society

The terrorist threat has been exploited to intensify mass surveillance in the US, therefore further invading the public’s right to privacy without guaranteeing that intelligence will be able to restrict acts of terrorism. The case is no different in the UK and France where the governments are also trying to exercise more censorship.

As for civil society, which speaks for those who have no voices, it is also being targeted as a result. This will only increase the schism that pits the western public against refugees.

“In Europe and the United States, a polarizing us-versus-them rhetoric has moved from the political fringe to the mainstream. Blatant Islamophobia and shameless demonizing of refugees have become the currency of an increasingly assertive politics of in tolerance,” the report stated.

Roth pointed out that “the less visible threat is the effort by a growing number of authoritarian governments to restrict civil society, particularly the civic groups that monitor and speak out about those governments’ conduct.”

Without civil society, governments would be more inclined to carry out unaccepted decisions. Without civil society breathing down their necks, there is no end to what governments will be able to do under the pretext of fighting terrorism.

By Alwaght