Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 unleashed numerous war crimes and generated a global energy and food crisis, but it also laid bare the hypocrisy of Western states that reacted to the Kremlin’s aggression, Amnesty International said in its annual report on human rights.

Amnesty International said that while the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was swift and forceful, countries applied human rights law on a case-by-case basis in a “staggering show of blatant hypocrisy and double standards” and left a lack of meaningful action on grave violations by some of their allies.

“States cannot criticise human rights violations one minute and in the next condone similar abuses in other countries just because their interests are at stake. It’s unconscionable and undermines the entire fabric of universal human rights,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general, in a news release accompanying the report.

The organisation said its report examining the human rights situation in 156 countries in 2022 highlights double standards throughout the world on human rights and the failure of the international community to unite around human rights and universal values. It also found that double standards and inadequate responses to human rights abuses around the world fueled impunity and instability.

Ukraine / AP

The report said, for example, that while EU member states opened their borders to Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression, many kept their doors shut to those escaping war and repression in Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya.

In Lithuania, “people who fled Ukraine were welcomed and assisted; other refugees and migrants were forcibly returned to Belarus or arbitrarily detained, denied access to asylum”, the report states.

In some cases, the migrants returned to Belarus were “subjected tot torture and other ill-treatment”.

The report also said that while the United States has been a vocal critic of alleged Russian violations in Ukraine and has admitted tens of thousands of Ukrainian war refugees, it expelled more than 25,000 Haitians between September 2021 and May 2022.

The report cited in particular the refusal to confront Israel’s “system of apartheid against Palestinians” and inaction against China’s human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Province.

Irregular migrants in Lithuania
Irregular migrants in Lithuania / E. Blaževič/LRT

These double standards emboldened countries like China, and enabled Egypt and Saudi Arabia to evade, ignore, and deflect criticism of their human rights record, Amnesty International said.

Callamard also said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a “chilling example” of what can happen when states think they can flout international law and violate human rights without consequences.

“Had the system worked to hold Russia accountable for its documented crimes in Chechnya and Syria, thousands of lives might have been saved then and now, in Ukraine and elsewhere. Instead, what we have is more suffering and devastation,” Callamard said.

Russia has been accused by other human rights groups and Western governments of being responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses in the North Caucasus region of Chechnya and of human rights abuses in Syria, including its participation in bombing of civilian targets.

This story previously appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), partners of LRT. The report’s findings on Lithuania were added by LRT English.