[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has urged the European Union to "fill the leadership void on human rights" [press release] left after allegations of torture and US detention practices have undermined American credibility in the human rights arena. In the introduction [text] to HRW's World Report 2007 [HRW index], released Thursday, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote:
In the past, many would have looked to the United States to take the lead in addressing these challenges. Though never a consistent promoter of human rights, Washington has been a prominent and influential one. Yet its voice now rings hollowan enormous loss for the human rights cause. Quite apart from the fallout of its ill-fated Iraq invasion, its credibility as a proponent of human rights has been tarnished by the abuses it practices in the name of fighting terrorism. Few US ambassadors dare to protest another governments harsh interrogations, detention without trial, or even "disappearances," knowing how easily an interlocutor could turn the tables and cite US misconduct as an excuse for his government's own abuses. The cheapness of that excuse does not diminish its embarrassing effectiveness. Nor can consolation be taken in the fact that the United States is far from the worlds worst rights violator. The abuses it has committed have done damage enough.The Washington Post has more.
The last year dispelled any doubt that the Bush administration's use of torture and other mistreatment was a matter of policy dictated at the top rather than the aberrant misconduct of a few low-level interrogators. ...
With the United States having largely disqualified itself from human rights promotion, China and Russia effectively undermining the effort, and the global South not yet bearing its share of the burden, it is imperative that the European Union rise to the occasion and assume a leadership role. After all, the EU is the world's leading collection of democracies, founded on a commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Yet the sad truth is that the EU is nowhere near picking up the leadership mantle. All too often, when the EU musters a statement about a human rights problem, it is delivered by a Brussels bureaucrat or takes the form of a written EU Presidency press release rather than a forceful public pronouncement by a head of state or foreign minister. Such statements are rarely followed by firm action or pressure to protect human rights. Due in part to structural problems and in part to a lack of political will, the EU's underperformance on human rights has left a gaping leadership hole.
HRW's 556-page report also decried rights setbacks in Asia [AFP report] in 2006, particularly in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and accused both Israel and Hezbollah of violating the laws of war [AFP report] during the conflict in the Middle East [JURIST news archive] last summer. HRW also expressed concern at the erosion of human rights and the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela [AP report] under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez.