Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 03:46 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 03:46 | SYDNEY

Berlin Wall: The human rights perspective

9 November 2009 13:33

Claire Mallinson is Australian National Director of Amnesty International. She was a speaker at today's Lowy Institute's Berlin Wall retrospective.

Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, many regimes in Eastern Europe refused to allow their citizens freedom to travel, and prisoners of conscience were jailed for trying to exercise their rights of expression, association and religion. The map of the world looks very different today but twenty years on, major challenges still remain for human rights.

There has been some progress – Belarus is Europe's last state executioner and civil and political rights are on the agenda. The proxy wars in Africa, Latin America and Asia that dominated the Cold War period have declined, and we have seen the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

However, across the world people still do not enjoy all their human rights, and violations are still occurring. Our research shows there are restrictions on freedom of expression in 81 countries, prisoners of conscience in 50, and asylum seekers forcibly returned to states to face detention, torture, or death in 27. Eradicating poverty for billions of people around the world is a human rights issue, and the moral challenge of our generation.

We now have a new world order with the G20 taking centre stage, but the human rights record of the G20 is not one to be proud of. Last year people were tortured or gravely ill-treated during interrogation in 15 of the G20 countries, and 5 of them were responsible for 78 per cent of all state executions across the world. 

The world urgently needs courageous leadership.

There is no hierarchy of rights — they are all interconnected and they all belong to everyone, everywhere. Amnesty International and its millions of supporters will not rest until this is recognized and we will continue to speak out and to demand dignity, freedom and justice for all.