Amnesty International's annual report State of the World's Human Rights makes for grim reading.

Released on 25 February, the reports says governments are failing to protect millions of civilians from violence by states and armed groups, describing the global response to widespread conflict from Nigeria to Syria as "shameful and ineffective".

A year of catastrophic violence had led to one of the worst refugee crises in history, as the number of displaced people worldwide topped 50 million for the first time since the end of the World War Two, the rights group said.

"Our report this year for 2014/15 provides quite shocking details of the horrific violence and human rights abuses that civilians from Syria to Ukraine to Nigeria to Gaza have faced in this period. But the response so far has been dismal. We have called it shameful," said Amnesty's General Secretary Salil Shetty at a news conference in London on 24 February.

It has been a catastrophic past twelve months for the millions caught up in escalating violence around the world. Amnesty examined 160 countries and found that armed groups, such as Islamic State (Isis), Boko Haram and al-Shabaab operated in 35 of them - that's one in five suffering brutal abuses from such groups.

The report said that at the same time civilians are living under quasi-state control of armed groups others are suffering from deepening threats to civil liberties from draconian anti-terror laws imposed in haste.

Amnesty said the United Nations Security Council had not done enough to protect civilians.

"The United Nations Security Council was created to protect civilians to provide peace and security and they have dismally failed. We are saying therefore one of the instruments through which this failure has ended up happening is the abuse of the veto by the permanent five members of the Security Council time and again," Shetty said.

Amnesty is calling on the five permanent members of the Security Council (Russia, China, the US, UK and France) to voluntarily revoke their veto powers when the chamber is asked to vote on issues of human rights and protection against violence. Shetty said that too often such measures failed because countries put their own national interests first. He highlighted the example of Russia and China blocking measures to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

The rights group said there was a worrying trend in the way governments are responding to security threats, resulting in the eroding of rights and a cycle of violence.

"We are very nervous that governments are ending up once more repeating the mistakes of the post-9/11 era where the knee-jerk reaction of draconian anti-terror legislation being bought in, mass surveillance, we have seen this in France, Denmark, we are seeing this in several countries in the west. And of course very quickly countries in the developing world pick up this practice, so Kenya, Turkey, Egypt all bringing in anti-terror legislation," Shetty said.

The consequences of such instability in so many countries are high levels of refugees around the world.

The report said that four million refugees have fled the conflict in Syria, with a massive 95 percent of them being hosted in neighbouring countries.

Amnesty called the lack of response to the middle-east refugee crisis "abhorrent" and urged western countries to do more to provide humanitarian aid and to resettle those who have lost everything.