Europe, US Accused of Undermining
Human rights are in danger because
established democracies are accepting unfair elections in other
countries, Human Rights Watch said in its annual report.
www.dw-world.de/, January 31,
In a report released on Thursday, Jan. 31, Human Rights Watch
chastised Europe and the US for tolerating unjust elections this
past year in places including Russia, Jordan and Nigeria.
"By allowing autocrats to pose as democrats without demanding
they uphold the civil and political rights that make democracy
meaningful, the United States, the European Union and other influential
democracies risk undermining human rights worldwide," the
New York-based rights group said in its annual report.
Fair elections are not the only essential component to democracy,
said HRW, adding that a free press, freedom of assembly and free
speech are also crucial.
The European Union's stance on Russia received special condemnation
from the human right's group, which said the 27-member bloc put
political ties with an important energy supplier ahead of a responsibility
to address Moscow's human rights' record.
"Human rights did not figure prominently in the broader EU-Russia
agenda," the report said. "Although the German EU presidency
raised human rights issues at the May EU-Russia summit ... this
stance was compromised by subsequent statements made by the Portuguese
presidency equating the raising of human rights issues with inappropriate
Bad news for EU hopeful
Turkey was taken to task in the report for violating free speech.
The country has begun accession talks with the European Union,
but human rights remain a key issue in the discussion.
"The criminalization of speech remains
a key obstacle to the protection of human rights in Turkey, contributing
to an atmosphere of intolerance that assumed violent proportions
in 2007," the report said.
HRW recalled the ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who was
shot dead in Istanbul in January last year after labeling as genocide
the World War I massacres of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.
In the global spotlight ahead of the 2008
Olympic Games, host country China has promised to improve the
human rights situation within its borders. Instead, preparations
have only led to more violations, said HRW, including evictions
of residents for Olympic construction, abysmal work conditions
and tighter restrictions on government critics.
"Official efforts to rid Beijing of undesirables ahead of
the Olympics have accelerated the eviction of petitioners -- citizens
from the countryside who come to the capital seeking redress for
grievances ranging from illegal land seizures to official corruption,"
said the report.
HRW Director Kenneth Roth on Thursday urged the world to put pressure
on China to ameliorate the situation before the Games.
"The Olympics are a historic opportunity
for the Chinese government to show the world that it can make
human rights a reality for its 1.4 billion citizens," said
The anti-terror campaign
Not only the US, but also France, Pakistan and Great Britain were
criticized by HRW for breaching human rights in the name of the
"war on terror." The American prison in Cuba came under
fire, in particular.
"There is no evidence of progress concerning the treatment
of so-called enemy combatants, including those held at Guantanamo
Bay, or the use of secret detention facilities" in foreign
countries, the report said.
HRW estimated that 275 people are still imprisoned at the Guantanamo
Bay camp and that another 39 are currently being held by in secret
US detention facilities.
In all, more than 75 countries were admonished in the report for
their human rights situation. Among the countries with the most
atrocities were Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia,
Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Iraq, and the Sudanese region of Darfur.
Burma, China, Cuba, Eritrea, Libya, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia
and Vietnam were named as being closed societies or under severe
Human Rights watch