By Ambra Visentin

Friends are forgiven all. In its 2022/2023 annual report, Amnesty International accuses the West of applying double standards in the fight against human rights violations – an iron fist against Russia for crimes committed in Ukraine, but ‘soft treatment’ for its allies: ‘Amnesty International Report 2022/23: The State of the World’s Human Rights shows how the West’s robust response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine contrasted sharply with the lack of meaningful action taken against egregious violations by some of their allies in the region, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt’.

The West is perfectly capable of upholding international law and fighting human rights abuses. But for Amnesty, this happens to varying degrees, depending on who is committing the violations. ‘The reception shown to people seeking protection from the war in Ukraine set a new benchmark in Europe and showed that EU member states have the capacity to give dignified protection to millions if there is the political will to do so’, said Amnesty Secretary General Agnès Callamard.

This ‘bipolar’ attitude is at the root of impunity and instability around the world, as exemplified by ‘the deafening silence on human rights in Saudi Arabia, the inaction against Egypt and the refusal to address Israel’s apartheid system against the Palestinians’.

Even the ‘moral imperative’ of hospitality seems not a constant for the West. Millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s war of aggression were welcomed with open arms by many EU countries. The EU showed how quickly it could take in and care for people. Those seeking protection in other parts of the world could not hope for such treatment.

Also in Amnesty’s crosshairs are Iran, for its brutal repression of protesters, and China, for its attempts at intimidation. China continues to evade international condemnation by the UN General Assembly and the UNHRC despite massive human rights abuses, amounting to crimes against humanity, against the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.

In Iran, women are fighting discrimination by refusing to wear the veil required by Iranian law. Iran’s moral police intervene when they see the law being broken. In September, for example, Jina Mahsa Amini was forcibly arrested. She died three days later. Women and girls played a central role in the protests that followed her death. The slogan ‘Woman, life, freedom’ is being heard around the world. Thousands have been arrested for exercising their human rights to freedom of assembly and expression. Security forces have fired live bullets during demonstrations, killing hundreds and injuring thousands.

Cover image by Alisdare Hickson on Flickr