Monday, 19 August 2013

Human rights abuses in top holiday destinations

For the holidays, Amnesty International has put together an unusual travel guide. This guide outlines some of the key human rights issues affecting the most popular holiday destinations for UK holidaymakers.
 “Holidays are a time to relax and forget about life’s headaches, and we’re not expecting people to anxiously research the human rights situation of their holiday destinations,” says Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen.
 “But behind the sparkling seas, the luxurious hotels and picturesque landscapes, there’s a darker reality of tragedy and human rights abuse."
The top ten countries visited by British tourists are in descending order: Spain, France, USA, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, Greece and Belgium. The guide also feaures the world’s other two favourite destinations: the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
For each destination, AI lists the number of British (or international) visitors, the main tourists attractions, then the human rights concerns and a case study illustrating them.
And to be fair, the guide mentions the UK as well, which ranks the world’s 8th most popular location. There too, AI lists the leading attractions, then the human rights issues and a case study.
Here are a few examples (I’ve removed the case studies for space reason):

Number of British visitors in 2012: 11,110,000
Leading attractions: Antoni Gaudí’s distinctive architecture at Barcelona’s Park Güell, the Sagrada Familia cathedral and the Casa Batlló; the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia contemporary art museum in Madrid; Granada’s Moorish Alhambra palace complex; the lively, and less lively, beach resorts along much of Spain’s coast.
Human rights concerns:
·     *Excessive use of force by police during austerity protests.
·     *Lack of justice for victims - and their relatives - of the Franco dictatorship.
·    *Roma people forcibly evicted from their homes without adequate alternative accommodation.

Number of British visitors in 2012: 8,781,000
Leading attractions: the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and the Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris, all in Paris; the French Riviera.
Human rights concerns:
·     *Investigations into allegations of deaths in custody, torture and other ill-treatment by police are ineffective and inadequate.
      *Since 2011 France has enforced a ban on the wearing of veils and burqas in public places, which Amnesty believes is an infringement of the rights of women in France to express their values, beliefs and identity.
·     *Thousands of Roma people have been left homeless after being forcibly evicted from informal settlements.
·     *The fast-track procedure for the assessment of asylum applications falls short of international standards.
Case: Mohamed Boukrourou, a 41-year-old Moroccan man, died soon after being arrested in Valentigney (Doubs) on 12 November 2009 after he’d become agitated in a chemist’s shop. Reportedly, four police officers restrained Boukrourou on the ground outside the chemist’s before carrying him into a police van. A witness said she saw the police stamping on Boukrourou inside the van, as well as kicking and beating him. Soon after a doctor declared Boukrourou dead and the same evening police told family members that he’d died of a heart attack following an accident. Despite prolonged efforts from the family there has been no proper accountability in the case.

Number of British visitors in 2012: 3,011,000
Leading attractions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Manhattan’s vast Central Park, and the High Line Public Park, all in New York City; the Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles’ Venice Boardwalk.
Human rights concerns:
·    *The USA is a major user of capital punishment and last year 43 people were executed, the fifth highest number anywhere in the world.
·    *The US authorities are still holding 166 detainees at the notorious detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The vast majority have not been charged with an offence and most have been there for over ten years.
·    *At least 42 people across 20 US states died after being struck by police Tasers last year, bringing the total number of such deaths to 540 since 2001.
·    *Thousands of prisoners in the USA are held in solitary confinement in “super-maximum security” prisons, confined to small cells for 22-24 hours a day.
Cases: former UK resident Shaker Aamer, 44, has been held at Guantánamo Bay without charge or trial for 11-and-a-half years. Via his lawyers, Aamer has alleged he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, including severe beatings, while held in secret US detention in Afghanistan in early 2002, and claims he has been further mistreated at Guantánamo. Along with over 100 other Guantánamo detainees, he has reportedly been on hunger strike for several months to protest at his continued detention.

Number of International tourist arrivals in 2012: 958,000
Almost three times more people visited the Maldives last year than actually live there (the country has a population of 330,000), and tourism is the country’s largest economic industry. It is particularly popular with honeymooners.
Leading attractions: apart from the beaches … Maldives’ oldest mosque Hukuru Miskiiy, the National Art Gallery, the National Stadium, and the Sultan’s Park which surrounds the National Museum, all in the capital city of Malé.
Human rights concerns:
·   *In a report issued last year called “The other side of paradise”, Amnesty documented attacks carried out by the police using truncheons and pepper-spray to crack down on largely peaceful demonstrations.
·     *There are reports that detainees have been tortured.
·     *In May this year two juvenile offenders were sentenced to death despite this being contrary to international law.

Meanwhile, the UNITED KINGDOM is ranked as the world’s eighth-most popular destination, with 29.3 million visitors in 2012.
Leading attractions: the National and Tate galleries, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the 2012 Olympic Park, all in London; an abundance of castles including Cardiff, Edinburgh, Windsor; the historic university cities of Oxford and Cambridge; the Lake District, Peak District and the Cotswolds.
Human rights concerns:
·    *The highly controversial Justice and Security Act (allowing “secret courts”) recently passed into law despite opposition from hundreds of lawyers and numerous human rights organisations. Amnesty said the measures are an affront to the principles of open justice and are “Kafkaesque”.
·     *The recently-enacted Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act has raised fears that changes to legal aid will seriously restrict access to justice, particularly for overseas victims of abuses by UK multinational companies.
·     *Toxic language about human rights in the UK is common. While often lauding human rights in a foreign context, some politicians treat them with contempt at home, as do sections of the media. In some quarters there has been an almost continuous drumbeat of threats to “scrap the Human Rights Act” and to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
All UK tourist figures are from the Office of National Statistics.The international tourism figures are from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.The tourist attractions listed includes information from the Lonely Planet guide.

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