'Demonising' policies of Donald Trump, others a risk: Amnesty

US President Donald Trump speaking following a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, on Feb 21, 2017.
US President Donald Trump speaking following a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, on Feb 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - US President Donald Trump and other leaders whose policies "demonise" entire groups of people pose a growing danger for the world, Amnesty International said Wednesday (Feb 22) in its annual report.

"The poisonous politics of demonisation" are making the world "more fragmented, more unequal (and) more unsafe", Amnesty chief Salil Shetty said while presenting the 2016 report in Paris.

The report says that "divisive fear-mongering has become a dangerous force in world affairs," adding: "More and more politicians calling themselves anti-establishment are wielding a toxic agenda that hounds, scapegoats and dehumanises entire groups of people."

Shetty pointed to Trump, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban as leaders employing "us versus them" rhetoric.

Their brand of identity politics is causing a "global pushback" of human rights and undermining a coordinated response to mass atrocities, Amnesty said in the report, which evaluates the state of human rights in 159 countries.

"We have reached a point where there is no longer any red line. Almost no action has become too appalling or indefensible," Shetty said. "In this new reality it's easy to imagine a dystopian future where unrestrained brutality becomes a new normal."

He said that last year the world "ceased to be shocked by the deliberate bombing of hospitals and schools in conflict zones."

But while acknowledging "the parallels that many are drawing between the present time and 1930s Europe," Shetty said "We must not be fatalistic." He called on "leaders, but especially people, to stand up against the politics of demonisation".

Shetty denounced the Trump administration's attempted travel ban as inhumane, illegal and "just plain stupid... because what it's doing is making all of us, not just people in the United States, less safe."

After a federal judge blocked the ban affecting all refugees and anyone from seven Muslim-majority countries, the White House is planning a new order this week that would allow it to circumvent the court.

"So in the country that used to say 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free'... we now have the politics of demonisation at work," Shetty said.

"One of the most dangerous things that happened in 2016 was to increasingly start equating refugees with terrorists, and this is a very systematic change of discourse by (those) who want to create this impression... based on close to zero evidence," he said.

The London-based Amnesty took the unusual step of unveiling the report in Paris, Shetty said, because France, which heads into presidential elections in two months, is "the cradle of human rights".

But today its citizens are seeing their rights eroded in the name of security, he said.

"There are few countries in the world where human rights are more tightly woven in the national psyche than in France," he said, but now the country is at "a tipping point".

He took aim at the Socialist government for repeatedly extending a state of emergency since the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.

The increased security measures, which extend police powers of search and arrest, have been backed by "all political parties" in France, he noted.

"It's absolutely the responsibility of the government to protect the people, but it has to be proportionate," he said, speaking out against "traumatising house raids... all pointing towards one religion".

"We are very worried about the situation here," he added.

"The world is watching France."