Concerns continued over the progress of investigations into crimes under international law during the war between Georgia and Russia in August 2008 and in its immediate aftermath. Despite some progress, solutions for the housing and integration of internally displaced people remained insufficient.
The May municipal elections, while assessed favourably by international observers, were accompanied by reports of harassment and intimidation of some opposition candidates. In October, amendments to the Constitution due to enter into force in 2013 were made which will significantly reduce the presidential powers, and increase the powers of the Prime Minister and the government.
The situation remained tense in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia, regions of Georgia which had declared themselves independent in 2008 following the war between Russia and Georgia. Discussions in Geneva which began that year as part of the ceasefire agreement remained largely deadlocked.
Civilians also continued to suffer from harassment and insecurity in the Gali region of Abkhazia, where shoot-outs, killings and acts of arson were reported in June.
The country entries are prefaced by five regional overviews (Africa; Americas; Asia-Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, Middle East and North Africa) and a foreword by Claudio Cordone, interim Secretary General of Amnesty International, entitled Pursuing Justice: For all rights, for all people.
Together, the different elements detail a year in which accountability and effective justice seemed a remote ideal for many, as people’s lives continued to be torn apart by repression, violence, discrimination, power plays and political stalemates. But the report also celebrates real progress. It reveals how it is harder now for perpetrators of the worst crimes to feel confident that they will escape justice.
The 2009 Amnesty International Report highlights the fact that the world is in the middle of a human rights crisis. We are sitting on a social, political and economic time-bomb that will explode if human rights concerns are not addressed.
Billions of people are suffering from insecurity, injustice and indignity around the world and while many aspects of this crisis pre-date the economic ‘downturn’, it is clear that the global financial situation is making the human rights crisis far worse.
More people have been driven into poverty and placed at increased risk of human rights violations. In Africa, the food crisis, a hallmark of 2008, had a disproportionate impact on vulnerable groups. In Asia, millions of people have swelled the ranks of those already living in poverty, as the cost of food, fuel and other commodities increased dramatically in 2008.