Amnesty International has released its 2014 Annual Report On The State Of The World’s Human Rights, detailing the catastrophic year for millions caught up in violence.
The human rights organisation has found that governments’ response to conflict and abuses by states and armed groups has been shameful and ineffective.
While people suffered an escalation in barbarous attacks and repression, the international community, including Australia, failed to find workable solutions to the most pressing human needs of our time.
"Australia advocated strongly for its citizens overseas, including Australians on death row in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, and now freed prisoner of conscience Peter Greste in Egypt,” said Claire Mallinson, Amnesty International Australia’s National Director.
"But in its own backyard, Australia has been criticised for its human rights failings throughout 2014."
Australia’s hardline approach to asylum-seekers continued, along with the mandatory detention of children seeking asylum, including those held offshore on Nauru who continue to suffer the damaging effects.
Indigenous people continued to be heavily over-represented in prisons, despite comprising only a fraction of the population, with Indigenous young people being detained at 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous youth.
Unless the world’s leaders act immediately to confront the changing nature of conflict and address other shortcomings identified in the report, the human rights outlook for the coming year is bleak: more civilian populations forced to live under the quasi-state control of brutal armed groups, subject to attacks, persecution, and discrimination.
Of particular concern is the rising power of non-state armed groups, including the group which calls itself Islamic State (IS).
While Australia sat on the UN Security Council, armed groups committed abuses in at least 35 countries in 2014, more than 1 in 5 of the countries that Amnesty International investigated.
"Governments must stop pretending the protection of civilians is beyond their power and help roll back the tide of suffering of millions," Claire Mallinson said.
Governments must stop pretending the protection of civilians is beyond their power and help roll back the tide of suffering of millions.
"Leaders, including Australia’s, must do their utmost to protect human rights around the world."
"A major consequence of the international community’s inability to protect civilians caught in conflict has helped create one of the worst refugee crises the world has ever seen," said Claire Mallinson.
"All leading countries must commit political and financial resources to assist and protect those fleeing danger and resettle the most vulnerable."
Australia has the means and a responsibility to increase its refugee intake and do more to protect the people fleeing violence in places like Syria and Afghanistan.
"Australia has shown international leadership in human rights, as we saw in the passing of the Arms Trade Treaty and securing a temporary ceasefire to allow aid into Aleppo, and it now needs to show leadership in the face of this growing refugee crisis," said Claire Mallinson.
Australia’s response to the refugee crisis
"To date Australia’s response to the refugee crisis has been shamefully inadequate.
"While countries like Jordan and Lebanon are providing support to millions fleeing violence, the Australian Government’s intake pledge stands at a miserly 1,500 per year for the next three years. This number is from within, and not in addition to, our current humanitarian quota of 13,750 places. Australia has the capacity to provide protection to at least 10,000 Syrian refugees.
"It’s also critical that Australia acts with consistency when it comes to human rights at home.
"The continued detention of children seeking asylum and our inhumane and prolonged offshore processing policy brings Australia international shame and urgently needs to be addressed," Claire Mallinson added.