Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released [press release] its annual World Report [materials] on Sunday, leading with a criticism of Western governments' support of Middle Eastern regimes that stifle and suppress protests. The comprehensive report catalogs all of the world's major human rights violations and gives HRW's outlook on trends and remedies to ongoing situations. Focusing on the reverberations of recent uprisings in the Middle East, HRW recommended that democratic governments reject autocracies:
Western policy towards Arab countries traditionally has been one of containment, backing an array of Arab autocrats to guarantee "stability" in the region even as democracy spread in other parts of the world. Human Rights Watch said the reasons so many democratic governments make an "Arab exception" include fear of political Islam and terrorism, the need to keep oil supplies flowing, and a longstanding policy of reliance on autocracies to maintain Arab Israeli peace and to help stifle migration to Europe.HRW also cited the Middle Eastern revolutions and protests as inspiration for citizens in other oppressed nations, including China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan [JURIST news archives]. However, HRW strongly criticized the continued lack of international action on Yemen, Bahrain and Syria [JURIST news archives], and pleaded with Western nations to "clearly sid[e] with democratic reformers even at the expense of abandoning autocratic friends. There is no excuse for any government to tolerate Assad's lethal repression, to close its eyes to Bahrain's systematic crackdown, or to exempt other monarchs from pressure to reform."
Although much of the report focused on last year's Middle Eastern uprisings, there were several other criticisms leveled at various nations. HRW reprimanded the US, the UK [HRW reports] and other Western nations for disavowing torture programs while castigating Middle Eastern nations for similar actions. In addition to criticizing the US illegal detention programs, the report also pointed to extreme prisoner rights abuses and a high level of incarceration of illegal immigrants and racial minorities. European nations were reprimanded for a number of human rights abuses, including France [HRW report] expelling Roma immigrants [JURIST comment], Hungary's controversial media law [JURIST report] and Italy's rejection of Tunisian refugees [JURIST report]. Belarus [HRW report] was highlighted for its many human rights violations [JURIST news archive], including voter fraud, taking of political prisoners, stifling of the Internet and dissent and its continued use of the death penalty. The report praised Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia [HRW reports] for holding war criminals accountable by supporting the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], especially in the arrest of Ratko Mladic [JURIST news archive]. Uzbekistan and Russia [HRW reports] received the sharpest rebukes for European human rights violations, with HRW especially noting that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's future run for president in Russia is "a foregone conclusion, and cast[s] a shadow over the prospect of much-needed political reform." HRW also commented that the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko [JURIST news archive] has shaken the faith in the judiciary of Ukraine, while in Turkey [HRW reports] the biggest issue was their negligence in addressing the needs of the Kurdish people.
Africa's human rights record continues to disturb HRW, with much of the focus on the Ivory Coast [HRW report] and its violent presidential election [JURIST news archive] last year that resulted in the death of approximately 3,000 people. The report praised the nation for attempting to return to the rule of law by holding legislative elections in December and allowing International Criminal Court intervention [JURIST report]. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [HRW report] received criticism for continued violence, especially in the wake of a recent presidential election [JURIST report], but was commended for its attempts to prosecute perpetrators of rape as a military tactic, although HRW would like to see more progress in apprehending the actors in a mass rape of 387 DRC citizens [JURIST report]. HRW had high praise for Kenya [HRW report] and their continuous reforms since violence in the nation several years ago. Rwanda [HRW report] was also praised for reforms, although the report noted that the freedom of expression is "severely restricted" in the nation, and that the legacy of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] is mixed, "with a number of positive achievements—including the swift work of the courts, the extensive participation of the local population, and the revelation of information about events during 1994—alongside violations of the right to a fair trial, intimidation of witnesses, corruption of judges and other parties, and political interference." Somalia [HRW report] and its civil war was surveyed, with HRW noting the nation's continued widespread abuse of children [JURIST report], including the use of child soldiers. Uganda [HRW report] was condemned for an unstable judiciary, a lack of free speech rights and violence against LGBT citizens [JURIST reports].
South America and Mexico's human rights violations continue to be largely in the realms of free speech and judicial and martial independence from corruption. Argentina [HRW report], although praised for successful prosecutions of war criminals [JURIST report], was chided for poor prison conditions and limitations on women's reproductive rights. The report decried rampant violence [JURIST report] in Colombia [HRW report], while also criticizing the US government's attempts at aid as being largely unchecked: "Thirty percent of US military aid is subject to human rights conditions, which the US Department of State has not enforced. In September 2011 the State Department certified that Colombia was meeting human rights conditions." The report also questioned the effectiveness of a recent trade agreement [JURIST report] between the US and Colombia. Cuba [HRW report], which the report declared "the only country in Latin America that represses virtually all forms of political dissent," was chastised for its record of arbitrary arrests, detentions and taking of political prisoners, including US citizen Alan Gross [JURIST report]. The report noted that Haiti [HRW report], still reeling from its 2010 earthquake, not only has to restore the country's basic infrastructure and health needs, but also continues a lamentable human rights record, and expressed concern that the nation's judiciary could not handle the prosecution of Jean-Claude Duvalier [JURIST report]. Venezuela [HRW report] and President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] were criticized for a "political takeover" of the nation's Supreme Court, which recently ruled that an opposition candidate was ineligible to run for president [JURIST report]. Finally, Mexico and its security forces [JURIST report] reactions to increasing homicides concerned HRW.
Finally, many Asian countries reportedly continue to struggle with basic rights of political expression. The report doled out strong criticism for Afghanistan [HRW report] and its continued support of war lords as well as "flawed parliamentary elections." HRW commanded Bangladesh [HRW report] to end its policies of torture and extrajudicial killings and called into question the competency of recent war crimes trials [JURIST reports]. The report chastised Prime Minister Hun Sen [BBC profile] of Cambodia [HRW report] for undermining the nation's Khmer Rouge trials [JURIST report]. China and North Korea [HRW report] were named as especially egregious violators of human rights, especially freedom of speech, but reporting in the private nations remains difficult. India and the Philippines [HRW reports], often seen as relatively stable democracies, were criticized for corruption and deficits in the rule of law, as well as troubling records on women's rights. HRW labeled Pakistan [HRW report] as having a "disastrous year," rife with civil discontent, military and guerrilla attacks on citizens and persecution of religious minorities. Sri Lanka [HRW report] continues to rebound from a civil war, although HRW is concerned that the government's investigations of war crimes [JURIST report] has not been credible enough. Finally, Vietnam [HRW report] and its continued suppression of bloggers, rights activists [JURIST reports] and journalists was denounced, and HRW attributed the recent obstruction of media to "Vietnamese government concerns that pro-democracy ... movement might reach Asia."