UN, EU failing to stand up to rights abuses: HRW

UN, EU failing to stand up to rights abuses: HRW

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[JURIST] EU member states and the UN have failed to adequately respond [press release] to human rights abuses and violations, according to the Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] annual report [text, PDF] published Monday. The report accuses countries of adopting soft approaches to human rights, such as dialogue and cooperation, without adopting concrete policies or pressuring violators to change. The report cited the increasing “use of dialogue and cooperation in lieu of public pressure” by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and members of the Human Rights Council, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy [official websites] Catherine Ashton’s preference for diplomacy, and US President Barack Obama’s inconsistent use of concrete actions [JURIST report] against human rights violations. According to the report:

This is a particularly inopportune time for proponents of human rights to lose their public voice, because various governments that want to prevent the vigorous enforcement of human rights have had no qualms about raising theirs. … Dialogues would have a far greater impact if they were tied to concrete and publicly articulated benchmarks. … UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been notably reluctant to put pressure on abusive governments. … Whatever the rationalization, the quest for dialogue and cooperation is simply not a universal substitute for public pressure as a tool to promote human rights. Defending human rights is rarely convenient. It may sometimes interfere with other governmental interests. But if governments want to pursue those interest instead of human rights, they should at least have the courage to admit it, instead of hiding behind meaningless dialogues and fruitless quests for cooperation.

HRW highlighted recent examples of soft approaches to human rights violations including the response of ASEAN to Burmese repression, the UN’s deference toward atrocities in Sri Lanka, the EU’s approach to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan [JURIST reports], the reaction by the West to repressive African leaders in Rwanda and Ethiopia, India’s policies towards Myanmar and Sri Lanka, and the world community’s non-confrontation to China [JURIST news archives].

A report earlier this month by Freedom House [advocacy website] revealed that the number of free countries and electoral democracies dropped [JURIST report] and the overall freedom in the Middle East and North Africa suffered for the fifth year. According to the report, the democratic world showed little resistance to the continuing repressive authoritarian regimes of the world, including China, Egypt, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela [JURIST news archives]. Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti [JURIST news archives], and Sri Lanka were removed from the list of electoral democracies. The nine states rated the most repressive in respect to political rights and civil liberties were Myanmar, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet [JURIST news archives], Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan .