Arab states pin hopes on cosmetic change, says Amnesty

Rights group says governments fail to appreciate scale of Arab Spring impact
Libyans seen celebrating the fall of Tripoli in August, after of the Arab Springs bloodiest revolts
By Reuters
Mon 09 Jan 2012 07:38 AM

Most Middle Eastern governments are failing to recognise the
significance of the Arab Spring and are responding with repression or merely
cosmetic change, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Reform movements showed no sign of flagging despite
bloodshed on the streets and arrests last year, Amnesty said in its report ‘Year
of Rebellion: State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa’.

"With few exceptions, governments have failed to
recognise that everything has changed," Philip Luther, Amnesty
International's interim Middle East and North Africa director, said in a
report.

"The protest movements across the region, led in many
cases by young people and with women playing central roles, have proved
astonishingly resilient in the face of sometimes staggering repression.

"They want concrete changes to the way they are
governed and for those responsible for past crimes to be held to account.

"But persistent attempts by states to offer cosmetic
changes, to push back against gains made by protesters or to simply brutalise
their populations into submission betray the fact that for many governments,
regime survival remains their aim."

In Syria, there were more than 200 cases of reported deaths
in custody by the end of the year, more than 40 times the recent average annual
figure, Amnesty said

In Yemen, more than 200 people had been killed in connection
with protests while hundreds more died in armed clashes.

In Bahrain, it was unclear how committed the government was
to implementing reform recommendations made by an independent report, Amnesty
said.

The report also said that despite the optimism that had
greeted the fall of long-standing rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, concern
remained that the gains had yet to be cemented by key instituitional reforms.

In Egypt, Amnesty found that the military rulers had been
responsible for abuses that were "in some aspects worse than under Hosni
Mubarak".

About 84 people had died under violent suppression between
October and December last year, while more civilians had been tried before
military courts in one year than under 30 years of his rule, it said.

In Tunisia, it was "critical" that a new
constitution was drafted to ensure it guaranteed protection of human rights and
equality under the law, the report said.

Amnesty also criticised international powers and regional
bodies for "inconsistencies" in their response to the situations in
Libya, Syria and Bahrain, and of "failing to grasp the depth of the
challenge to entrenched repressive rule".

"Support from world powers for ordinary people in the
region has been typically patchy," Luther said.

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