Head of Amnesty: “We failed the test” of COVID-19

PARIS (AP) – Agnès Callamard is best known for her investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and has built a career uncovering extrajudicial killings.

The French expert’s work against human rights abuses has taken on a new turn now that she leads Amnesty International, turning her attention to what she describes as one of the world’s most pressing problems: equal vaccines to end the coronavirus pandemic, which has eroded freedoms around the world.

Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, claiming that governments have used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to suppress human rights, whether that was their original intention or not. The broad report singled out the governments of Myanmar and Russia, among others, but also criticized the use of police powers associated with the coronavirus in places like Britain and the United States against protesters.

The only way to end the virus – and the abuses that have accompanied it, especially against the most vulnerable on the planet – is to distribute vaccines globally and equitably, he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“What we found is that COVID victims, whether it was in Britain, in France, in the United States, in India, in the Middle East, in Brazil, those victims were primarily among the most uprooted and vulnerable groups,” he explained. “As a global community, as a national community, we fail the test of COVID-19.”

Callamard does not hesitate to call attention to the powerful. In 2019, when she was a special investigator for the United Nations, she concluded that there was “credible evidence” that Kashoggi’s assassination had been ordered by the Saudi state. He also investigated the attack by a US drone that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and concluded that it had been illegal. This week he said there was a real risk that Russia was subjecting opposition leader Alexei Navalny to “a slow death.”

The expert pointed out that she will no longer conduct her own investigations, as she did for years for the United Nations, but will continue to denounce human rights violations when identified. And the pandemic left many on the table. Ending it, he said, will reveal even more, especially among rich and powerful countries that have bought more vaccines than they need.

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“Not only do we buy everything, we also prevent others from producing them. In the name of what? In the name of profit and in the name of greed, ”Callamard said, referring to the decision by the European Union and the United States to block a proposal to relax intellectual property restrictions on patents related to coronavirus treatments and vaccines. .

One of Callamard’s proposals goes in the same direction as the call made this week by the administration of US President Joe Biden to introduce a global minimum corporate rate. In the foreword to the Amnesty report, written ahead of Monday’s announcement by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Callamard said the global tax system has produced more losers than winners.

“Global auditing is a way to rebalance equality,” he said. “It is a way of ensuring that those who have less are not always asked to contribute more.”

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