April 10, 2017 1:53 pm

Human rights climate deteriorating: Amnesty International Canada

WATCH ABOVE: Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, discusses the ongoing conflict in Syria as the organization celebrates 40 years in Saskatoon.


The head of Amnesty International Canada says the human rights climate is going downhill in many parts of the world.

Alex Neve says it’s an attitude of “us versus them” and he calls it a worrying trend.

“It’s about scapegoating, it’s about targeting particular religions or groups or minorities, and vilifying them,” Neve told Global News.

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“A lot of these attitudes are things that for years and decades have always been there – no one would pretend we haven’t had undercurrents of racism and intolerance and xenophobia, but they’ve always been, in most countries, to be at the margins.”

READ MORE: Timeline of the Syrian civil war and the United States’ response

While many might point the finger at the election of Donald Trump in the U.S., Neve says the “us against them” mentality is more widespread than that.

“We saw this in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, we see it in leaders like Duterte in the Philippines, like Erdogan in Turkey and Modi in India … the list is growing and that’s very worrying – that we’re moving away from leaders that promote tolerance,” he said.

Neve was in Saskatoon to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Amnesty chapter in the city, and he said its grass roots groups like these that can make a difference on the world stage.

“In places like Saskatoon we have amazing, committed people who keep circulating petitions, signing letters, that gets multiplied across Canada and right around the world and we need to keep that up,” said Neve.

He added public pressure is crucial in ending the civil war in Syria, which is one of the biggest human rights tragedies since the Second World War.

Neve said last week’s chemical weapons attack, followed by the U.S. bombing in retaliation, show the need for action by the United Nations.

“The last thing Syria needs is an intensification of more fighting, more bombs falling – that’s happening every day, everywhere in Syria,” he said.

“What we really want to see from the U.S. and other countries is a sustained strategy that’s about ending the conflict, that’s about ensuring protection for Syrian refugees.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s national security adviser calls on Russia to rethink Syria support

Neve said Amnesty is putting a lot of effort into lobbying the UN Security Council to take action, in spite of the opposition from Russia about any sanctions for Syria.

“So a lot of our activism right now is focused on pushing the Security Council to take the decisions, put in place the resolutions, an arms embargo and other kinds of sanctions,” he said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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