For the 28th time, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) Annual Report summarizes the human rights conditions, such as women’s and girls’ rights, gender identity, children’s rights, freedom of expression, terrorism and many more, in ninety countries. The report results from an extensive investigative work from the HRW staff during 2017.
The Populist Challenge
When human rights are left aside, populism and autocracy have enough ground to flourish, says the executive director of the HRW in his keynote essay. Kenneth Roth writes that, in 2017, many countries retreated from their role of supporting human rights worldwide. The United States of America elected a president who slashes Muslims and immigrants, wants transgender people out of the military and deports long-life established immigrants, seasoning his remarks with misogyny and xenophobia. The UK turns inwards to deal with the Brexit and faces populist threats against migrants and asylum seekers. Many other governments remain silent in the face of abuses perpetrated in their own countries.
Populists offer superficial answers to complex problems, but broad swathes of the public, when reminded of the human rights principles at stake, can be convinced to reject the populists’ scapegoating of unpopular minorities and their efforts to undermine checks and balances against government abuse.
Kenneth Roth, World Report 2018
Roth argues that Russia and China have taken advantage of this ‘vacuum’. The presidents of both nations set an anti-rights agenda and forged alliances with repressive governments, while traditionally opposing governments connive with such practices.
When nations respond to populism, however, they are able to limit xenophobic threats. The essay applauds the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, for ‘openly embracing democratic principles, firmly rejecting the National Front’s efforts to foment hatred against Muslims and immigrants’ and the Chancellor Angela Merkel for ‘her ongoing defense of her courageous 2015 decision to admit large numbers of asylum seekers to Germany’. In countries where leaders violate human rights, such as the US and Venezuela, the HRW praises the work of civil rights groups, journalist and lawyers.
Massive Humanitarian Crisis
Since August 2017, Buddhist extremists, Burmese military and some members of the government have been pursuing an ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims. As a result, a massive wave of Rohingya refugees is running away to Bangladesh while Western governments seem reluctant to act.
The Saudi Arabia government forged a coalition of Arab states against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Civilians were bombed and attacked while Saudi Arabia’s allies closed their eyes to the atrocities.
To read the full report, click here.
Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0 or CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons