PARIS – Agnès Callamard is best known for her investigation into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and has made a career out of uncovering extrajudicial executions.
French human rights expert’s focus on rights violations takes on new dimensions as she takes the helm of Amnesty International and turns to what she says is one of the most pressing issues to the world – vaccine fairness to end the coronavirus pandemic, which has eroded freedoms globally.
Amnesty International released its annual report on Wednesday, saying governments have used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to clamp down on human rights, whether or not that was the original intention. The far-reaching report specifically targeted the governments of Myanmar and Russia, among others, but also criticized the use of coronavirus-related police powers in places like Britain and the United States against protesters.
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The only way to end the virus – and the abuse that has accompanied it, mainly against the world’s most vulnerable – is to distribute vaccines around the world and fairly, she told The Associated Press on Tuesday. .
“What we found is that the victims of Covid, whether in the UK, France, the US, India, the Middle East, Brazil, these victims were mainly part of the groups the most disadvantaged and vulnerable, ”she said.“ As a global community, as a national community, we have failed the test represented by Covid-19. ”
Callamard rarely hesitates to call on the powerful. In 2019, as a UN special rapporteur, she concluded that there was “credible evidence” that Khashoggi’s murder was state sanctioned. She also investigated the US drone attack that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and concluded that it was illegal. Earlier this week, she said there was a real risk that Russia would subject opposition leader Alexei Navalny to “a slow death”.
She said she will no longer conduct her own investigations, as she has done for years for the UN – but will continue to speak out against human rights violations as she sees them. And the pandemic has exposed a lot of them. Ending it, she said, will expose even more, especially among the rich and powerful nations who have bought more vaccines than needed.
“Not only do we buy everything, but we also prevent others from producing it. In the name of what? In the name of profit and in the name of greed, ”Callamard said, referring to the decision by the European Union and the United States to block a proposal to relax intellectual property restrictions on treatment-related patents and coronavirus vaccines.
One of his proposals is in line with the call made this week by the Biden administration for a global minimum corporate tax. In a foreword to Amnesty’s report she wrote ahead of Monday’s announcement by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Callamard said the global tax system has produced more losers than winners.
“Global taxation is a way to rebalance equality,” she said. “It’s a way of ensuring that it’s not always those with the least who are asked to give the most.”