The death penalty was imposed in several countries but applies only in a
few. In a worrying move, the Gambia carried out last year its first
executions in 30 years.
“Brutal state oppression” cracked down on freedoms of expression – both
on the streets and online. People were routinely harassed, attacked,
jailed and killed for “daring to challenge the authorities”. Several
incidents occurred in Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, China, Maldives,
South Korea and Indonesia. In North Korea, thousands of people were held
in political prison camps despite not having committed any crime, and
were subjected to harsh conditions.
Conflicts, natural disasters and economic reasons continued to make
millions of people suffer, migrate or be displaced in Afghanistan,
Myanmar, Thailand and other parts. In the region, women and girls were
still being denied their fundamental rights, noticeably in Afghanistan
Asia-Pacific countries saw a number of developments on the death
penalty in 2012. Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India all resumed
executions after, in some cases, relatively long periods.
The Americas saw progress in the fight against impunity in 2012. Also,
key prosecutions in Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala and Uruguay marked
further important advances in the quest for justice for violations
committed during past military governments. Nevertheless, the struggle
for justice continued in some parts, including Haiti. In the US, little
progress was made in holding to account those responsible for abuses
committed as part of the CIA’s programme of secret detentions during the
Last year was also marked by slow but constant progress in ending the
use of the death penalty in the Americas. The US is the only country in
the region that continued to execute people. Violence against women and
girls remained a serious concern, as was respect for their sexual and
reproductive rights. Measures to prevent and punish gender-based
violence were non-existent or ineffective.
Attacks on freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association,
including attacks, harassment and prosecution of human rights defenders,
continued in many of the republics of the former Soviet Union,
including Belarus, Russia and Tajikistan. Torture and ill-treatment
remained widespread across Central Asia, where impunity for human rights
violations remained the norm.
As for Europe, restrictive migration control policies and practices in
several European Union countries exposed migrants to detention,
international law, push-backs to the countries they entered and other
human rights violations.
Meanwhile, discrimination against ethnic minorities, such as Roma
continued across Europe, as well as discrimination against homosexuals.
The European parliament followed up on its calls for accountability in
EU member states overwhelmingly, by adopting a strong report giving
fresh impetus to the search for justice and accountability for human
rights violations committed in the context of the CIA renditions
Middle East and North Africa
Armed conflicts and crises took a heavy toll on the region. The brutal
conflict in Syria has left at least 70,000 dead since 2011, and forced
1.4 million refugees to flee the country and displaced nearly four
Violence in Iraq and parts of Yemen also marred last year, while the
Israeli government continued policies of collective punishment in the
occupied Palestinian Territories.
Meanwhile, greater space for media and civil society was achieved in
countries where leaders were ousted in 2011 and 2012, but new
governments have reneged on promises, such as in Egypt, Tunis and Libya.
New laws tightening the control on the media were introduced in some
parts and a clampdown on human rights defenders, political activists and
journalists was recorded in some other parts.
Authorities in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yen all continued to use
the death penalty on an “extensive scale”. Executions in the four
countries accounted for 99 per cent of the regional total.