Human Rights Watch Warns: Terrorism, Refugee Crisis Curbing Freedoms

Policemen fight with activists during a protest ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference at the place de la Republique, in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. More than 140 world leaders are gathering around Paris for high-stakes climate talks that start Monday, and activists are holding marches and protests around the world to urge them to reach a strong agreement to slow global warming. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Policemen fight with activists during a protest ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference at the place de la Republique, in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015. More than 140 world leaders are gathering around Paris for high-stakes climate talks that start Monday, and activists are holding marches and protests around the world to urge them to reach a strong agreement to slow global warming. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

The leading campaign group Human Rights Watch has warned that the threat of terrorism globally as well as the refugee crisis in Europe have led to many western governments imposing crackdown on basic rights.

The issue is particularly controversial in France, which has just agreed to extend its emergency measures, following the November 13 attacks in Paris in which 130 died and hundreds more were injured following a series of shootings and suicide bombs.

The French government has this week voted to extend its emergency powers, which include a ban of public gatherings, which has drawn criticism from liberty campaigners.

In its ‘World Report 2016’, Human Rights Watch says:

“The spread of terrorist attacks beyond the Middle East and the huge flows of refugees spawned by repression and conflict led many governments to curtail rights in misguided efforts to protect their security.”

“At the same time, authoritarian governments throughout the world, fearful of peaceful dissent that is often magnified by social media, embarked on the most intense crackdown on independent groups in recent times,” the report states.

The Paris attacks exposed a series of intelligence failures and brought calls for changes within the EU law enforcement agency Europol to allow for better transfer of intelligence between EU states. It followed the revelation that many of the Paris attackers were able to travel in and out of Europe without being challenged, despite some being on warning lists.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth said:

“Fear of terrorist attacks and mass refugee flows are driving many Western governments to roll back human rights protections. These backward steps threaten the rights of all without any demonstrated effectiveness in protecting ordinary people.”

Significant refugee flows to Europe, spurred largely by the Syrian conflict, coupled with broadening attacks on civilians in the name of the extremist group Daesh, also known as ISIL, have led to growing fear-mongering and Islamophobia, Human Rights Watch said.

But as European governments close borders, they are reviving old patterns of shirking responsibility for refugees by passing the problem to countries on Europe’s periphery that are less equipped to house or protect refugees.

The emphasis on the potential threat posed by refugees is also distracting European governments from addressing their homegrown terrorist threats and the steps needed to avoid social marginalization of disaffected populations.

“The tarring of entire immigrant or minority communities, wrong in itself, is also dangerous. Vilifying whole communities for the actions of a few generates precisely the kind of division and animosity that terrorist recruiters love to exploit,” Roth said.

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