Sunday, July 22
Укр Eng
Log In Register
PoliticsNeighboursEconomicsSocietyCultureHistoryOpinionsArchivePhoto Gallery
27 January, 2012  ▪  Alla Lazareva

The Right to Protection

Genevieve Garrigos, President of Amnesty International France, talks about how to defend human rights

UW: Amnesty International has just published its annual human rights report. Which country is the worst?  

– Unlike some other NGOs, we don’t rate countries. We only disseminate the information we have collected on our own and verified through several sources. With certain human rights violations, like the death sentence, China is the worst. North Korea is the most closed country. In some other countries, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Somalia, human rights have been systematically denied for years.

UW: Have you noticed any common trends in former Soviet countries?

– I wouldn’t draw general conclusions for the entire post-communist region. You can’t compare Poland to Belarus, for instance, and countries in Central Asia show different trends. The North Caucasus is a whole different world in itself that lives by its own rules. Yet, they have a few things in common. In my opinion, all these countries still tend to show discriminatory instincts and behavior towards gypsies, homosexuals and so on. People are still persecuted for their lifestyle in the Balkans, Hungary, Russia and Uzbekistan. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia have trouble with the freedom of assembly and civic activism. Neither are the penitentiary systems in these countries getting any better. We have seen the number of unjust sentences, unjustified house arrests and cases of prisoner torture increase in all three countries, while real criminals remain unpunished.

According to our report, the situation has deteriorated in Ukraine. Law enforcement agencies are fighting those who are trying to uphold the law. Amnesty International monitors how prisoners are being treated. We support people who are working to get unjust sentences overturned.

UW: What pushes former totalitarian regimes towards freedom?

– Some people believe that ensuring economic development is enough and internal political freedom will emerge on its own. We often hear that with regard to China. But I believe that the real impulse for change is growing public awareness. Human rights have taken root only in places where people have started to understand that these rights are there for them - and began to fight for themselves.

UW: How can civil society become more effective – especially with a government that ignores human rights advocates?

– That’s a tough question. For years we haven’t been able to get permission to visit China or Myanmar. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have information from there. People have stopped being afraid. They find ways to get around prohibitions and inform the world about what’s going on around them. In closed countries like that, we work through third parties. We work with diplomats, politicians, and activists from those countries that have access to territories we can't access. Mobilizing Western democracies keeps pressure on those governments that have the ear of those who are behind hermetically-sealed borders.

UW: How do you decide whom to protect?

Our central office in London has an expert team. Requests have to be sent to them. This can be done by the persecuted person’s lawyer or close relatives.

UW: What would you recommend to those who see that their country’s government is becoming more authoritarian and the legal system serves its repressive purposes?

Remember that no country has the right to brutalize its own citizens. Don’t expect to wait out political bad times. People say that if you keep your head down, you won’t get hit. This isn’t true. The history of all totalitarian regimes shows one thing: brutality entrenches itself only where there is no opposition.


Amnesty International is a worldwide non-government human rights organization with 3 mn members. It has its head office is in London and is represented in 43 countries. Amnesty International won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 and is one of the most respected human rights organizations in the world. Amnesty International celebrated its 50-year anniversary on 28 May.

Amnesty International Annual Report 2011: The state of the world's human rights could be seen following the link


Related publications:

  • UAH 6,659, 11,951 and 7,451, an equivalent of $256, 450 and 280 – this is how an average Ukrainian sees desired subsistence, average wage and pension across Ukraine, according to SOCIS, a sociology center. According to the State Statistics Bureau, the real numbers are UAH 1,777, 8,725 and 2,479 respectively, or around $68, 335 and 95.
    today, Andriy Holub
  • How have Russian counter-sanctions impacted Belarusian exports and imports?
    yesterday, Siarhei Pulsha
  • The opportunity to travel to neighboring countries without hindrance has had an effect people in the regions of Ukraine most distant from Europe – despite the war, they have begun to travel actively. The Ukrainian Week talked to Stanislav Chernohor, experienced traveller and head of the Community Development Foundation in Kramatorsk.
    day before yesterday, Yelyzaveta Honcharova
  • Can the middle class drive Ukraine's independence and development?
    19 July, Maksym Vikhrov
  • How the myth that Ukrainians are inclined towards lawlessness is used against them and why a sense of responsibility to your own people is so important
    17 July, Oles Oleksiyenko
  • From the Lisbon Protocol to the Budapest Memorandum. When, why and how the concept of Ukraine’s status as a non-nuclear weapon state was designed? Declaration of Ukraine’s status as a non-nuclear weapon state and strengthening of its independent statehood. Negotiations on the outline of Ukraine’s non-nuclear weapon state status under international law: process and outcome. The time of wasted opportunities. Budapest Memorandum: a historic mistake or inadequate actions by Ukraine’s government? Modern model to guarantee Ukraine’s security as a non-nuclear weapon state.
    14 July, Volodymyr Vasylenko
Copyright © Ukrainian Week LLC. All rights reserved.
Reprint or other commercial use of the site materials is allowed only with the editorial board permission.
Legal disclaimer Accessibility Privacy policy Terms of use Contact us