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International Relations

Leaders' rhetoric fueling hatred, Amnesty warns

Trump, Modi, Duterte lambasted over human rights in latest report

Rohingya refugees forced out of Myanmar and waiting for food supplies at Balukhali camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, in January.   © Reuters

JAKARTA -- The rise of populist leaders around the world and their "politics of demonization" have had "terrifying consequences" in furthering discrimination and persecution against minorities, Amnesty International said in its latest report, released on Thursday.

The London-based rights group named U.S. President Donald Trump and his rhetoric against minorities as a primary concern in its State of the World's Human Rights report for 2017.

"The transparently hateful move by the U.S. government in January [2017] to ban entry to people from several Muslim-majority countries set the scene for a year in which leaders took the politics of hate to its most dangerous conclusion," Amnesty Secretary-General Salil Shetty said in a statement.

"President Trump's backward steps on human rights are setting a dangerous precedent for other governments to follow."

But Trump is barely the only concern. Elsewhere, other leaders have emerged who exploit and ride on populist sentiments, fanning fear and "state-sponsored hate" against minorities in their respective countries, Amnesty said.

In Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Burmese military leaders were singled out in the report.

Modi's Hindu nationalist rhetoric is seen as fueling frictions between India's Hindu majority and Muslim minority. "Religious minority groups, particularly Muslims, faced increasing demonization by hardline Hindu groups, pro-government media and some state officials," Amnesty said.

In the Philippines, thousands of unlawful killings by police and other armed individuals continued as part of the government's anti-drug campaign, with human rights defenders critical of the campaign singled out and targeted by Duterte and his allies.

The extrajudicial killings of alleged drug offenders have likely inspired Indonesia, where the police last year killed 98 people, mostly during anti-drug raids, up from 18 people in 2016, Amnesty reported.

Meanwhile, hate rhetoric by state and non-state actors is fueling discrimination against minorities in Indonesia, where many believe Islamic conservatism is on the rise. Last year, ethnic Chinese Christians were the target, following a heated race for the Jakarta governorship. This year, politicians seem to be riding on a morality campaign against gay people ahead of the June regional elections by vowing to outlaw gay and unmarried sex.

Amnesty, however, said there is no other place where hate rhetoric has proven more deadly than in Myanmar, where the security forces involved Buddhist civilians in "crimes against humanity," including unlawful killings, rape and burnings of villages of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"We saw the ultimate consequence of a society encouraged to hate, scapegoat and fear minorities laid bare in the horrific military campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people in Myanmar," Shetty said.

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