(Istanbul) – The politics of fear led governments around the globe to roll back human rights during 2015.
In the 659-page World Report 2016, its 26th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth writes that the spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security. At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times.
“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.”
Significant refugee flows to Europe, spurred largely by the Syrian conflict, coupled with broadening attacks on civilians in the name of the extremist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS), have led to growing fear-mongering and Islamophobia, Human Rights Watch said. But as European governments close borders, they are reviving old patterns of shirking responsibility for refugees by passing the problem to countries on Europe’s periphery that are less equipped to house or protect refugees. The emphasis on the potential threat posed by refugees is also distracting European governments from addressing their homegrown terrorist threats and the steps needed to avoid social marginalization of disaffected populations.