In a report to be released Monday on the 2011 Arab uprisings, the London-based Amnesty International organisation detailed the harsh measures governments across the region used to suppress protests calling for democratic reforms and greater freedoms. It also noted that activists across the region have refused to accept bogus promises and appear unlikely to give up their demands.
"They have shown that they will not be fooled by reforms that make little difference to the way they are treated by the police and security forces," said Philip Luther, the group's interim director for the Middle East and North Africa. "They want concrete changes to the way they are governed and for those responsible for past crimes to be held to account."
The 80-page report said that Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where popular uprisings succeeded in toppling longtime dictators, still need to ensure that democratic gains are solidified so that past abuses are not repeated.
It called on Egypt's military rulers, who took control of the country after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February, to respect the right of protesters to express their views peacefully. It said Tunisia should ensure that its new constitution, to be drafted in 2012, protects human rights. And it called on Libya to make sure the militias who fought to end Muammar Gaddafi's regime don't continue its repressive practices.
In countries where uprisings have failed to cause such sweeping changes, the report said governments have resorted to harsh tactics to preserve power. It said thousands had been killed in government crackdowns in Syria, while Yemeni security forces had killed at least 200 protesters. Tens of thousands have been displaced in Yemen, aggravating humanitarian conditions in the Arab world's poorest country.
Amnesty called the response of international bodies like the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League "inconsistent," saying they had taken stronger stands for human rights in some countries than in others.
But the group lauded protesters, saying they had been more effective than international powers in driving change.
"What has been striking about the last year has been that — with some exceptions — change has largely been achieved through the efforts of local people coming onto the streets, not the influence and involvement of foreign powers," Luther said.