Human Rights Wins to Celebrate in 2020

Some positive news from 2020, by Courtney Bridges

During 2020 it became easier to focus on the negatives and to become lost among global pandemic news consuming media, government and public attention. 

It was also the year that saw ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) protests gain international media traction, another increase in reporting on the continued repression of Uighur Muslims in Xinjang China, and a refocus on the achievability of the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).

These are few of many important human rights discussions taking place across the global stage, and some of which caused a subsequent surge in the use of social media for activism. 

What this transcended into was an increased attention on human rights campaigns and organisations facilitating them, including Amnesty International and the United Nations – just two of the platforms turned to in continuing quests seeking justice. 

This article turns to Amnesty International to echo the ‘Human Rights Wins to Celebrate in 2020’

January | Rohingya refugee children offered schooling and training by Bangladeshi government: 

The government announced its intention to offer schooling and training opportunities to Rohingya refugee children after Rohingya were forced to flee a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. 

“This is an important and very positive commitment by the Bangladeshi government, allowing children to access schooling and chase their dreams for the future…” said Saad Hammadi, Amnesty International’s South Asia Campaigner. 

February | Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHR) released a long-awaited report listing more than 100 companies with links to the illegal Israeli settlements in the West bank:

This report included digital tourism companies, which Amnesty International  found to be driving tourism into settlements and contributing their existence and expansion, including Airbnb, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Booking.com. 

Amnesty International Middle East Deputy Director, Saleh Higazi states how ‘naming the businesses which profit in the context of this illegal situation sends a clear message from the international community that settlements must never be normalized.’

March | Define rape as sex without consent, the Let’s Talk About Yes campaign: 

Spain joins Denmark in plans to change definitions of rape, announcing a bill backing the proposal to define rape as sex without consent, falling in line with international human rights norms. The bill also includes other measures to prevent and respond to sexual violence. 

Amnesty campaigning is specifically tied to these efforts in following the ‘Let’s Talk About Yes’ campaign, encouraging other European countries to follow suit in adopting this definition. 

April | Chinese human rights lawyer Wang Quanzhang reunited with his family after nearly 5 years in prison:

Amnesty had campaigned for his release from the beginning. Arrested in 2015, he had been targeted for his work exposing corruption and human rights violations and was tried for subversion of state power. Quanzhang was released 4 April.

July | 765,000 letters of support helped save South Sudan teenager Magai Matiop NGON from death row:

‘Write for Rights’ campaign continuing from 2019 saw Magai removed from death row, after being convicted of murder at age 15 in 2017, as a warning shot that ricocheted caused his cousin’s death. 

The case of an accident was unable to be relayed in facing trial without a lawyer. Letters to President Salva Kiir urging the commute of the sentence was a reminder of South Sudanese international law, that sentencing a child to death is illegal. Court appeal quashed the sentence, Magai later expressing his thanks

“To Amnesty, tell them that I am so happy and grateful for what they have done to me and my family… I’m so blissful and blessed to have them as a support for my life and freedom.” 

August | Qatar announced the introduction of a new non-discriminatory minimum wage:

Adopted on the 30 August, a new non-discriminatory minimum wage was introduced into law, applying to all workers, of all nationalities, in all sectors, including those employed in households.  

It also establishes a Minimum Wage Commission which will review the impact and application of the introduction of the minimum wage, proposing adjustments alongside government bodies, experts, workers and employers collectively if needed.

December | In a historic moment for the women’s rights movement, Argentina legalises abortion:

Newly inaugurated Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez made good on commitments to take steps to legalise abortion, with the introduction of a bill in March to this effect. 

In December, after decades of campaigning by the Women’s Movement in Argentina, these efforts came to fruition. The Bill was passed with 38 votes to 29, with 1 abstention in the Senate. There will now be a safe, high quality service in place for people who decide to terminate their pregnancy…
These are some of the human rights successes of 2020 in brief, suggesting that the year was not simply ‘all bad news’. As well as reinstalling faith and courage in organisation campaigns, social media activism and the importance of publicising human rights’ triumphs and falls, to continue growing the application of human rights, globally – as a ‘common standard achievement for all peoples and all nations…’ – UN Universal Declaration of Human rights.