The past year was a “devastating” one for those caught up in war zones across the world, Amnesty International said, in its annual report published Wednesday. Moreover, the human rights group added, with widespread violence triggering an “enormous refugee crisis,” the outlook for 2015 remains bleak.
“Time and again, civilians bore the brunt in conflict,” Salil Shetty, the organization's secretary general, said, in a statement. “In the year marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, politicians repeatedly trampled on the rules protecting civilians -- or looked away from the deadly violations of these rules committed by others.”
In its report, Amnesty also accused the United Nations Security Council of failing to protect civilians in conflict-hit zones as 2014 saw over four million Syrians being displaced by an ongoing civil war, and a record number of migrants dying while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe.
According to the report, the number of displaced people across the globe topped 50 million -- a figure not seen since end of World War II.
“The U.N. Security Council had repeatedly failed to address the crisis in Syria in earlier years, when countless lives could still have been saved. That failure continued in 2014,” Shetty said, in the statement, adding that a “callous indifference” toward loss of civilian lives was on display during Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, and during the protracted civil strife in the African nations of Nigeria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
The report said that armed groups committed abuses in at least 35 countries in 2014 and war crimes were carried out in at least 18 countries. The organization also expressed serious concerns over the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Amnesty pointed out that the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the U.K., China, France, Russia and the U.S. -- had “consistently abused” their right to veto to “promote their political self-interest or geopolitical interest above the interest of protecting civilians.”
In order to rectify this, Amnesty urged the five nations to surrender their Security Council veto on issues related to mass killing and genocide. This, the organization argued, would prevent a situation similar to the one in May last year, when Russia and China vetoed a draft U.N. resolution calling for the Syrian crisis to be referred to the International Criminal Court.
“It is essential to confront violations against civilians, and to bring to justice those responsible,” the organization said, adding that the removal of a veto on matters of genocide and war crimes “would be an important first step” toward providing justice to the victims.