[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released [press release] its annual World Report [materials] on Thursday, emphasizing the need for emerging governments in the Middle East and North Africa to develop strong human rights commitments in the wake of the series of revolutions in 2011 known as the Arab Spring. The comprehensive report summarizes important human rights issues from around the world in the past year and presents HRW’s perspective and recommendations on these issues. Opening with an examination of the aftermath of the Arab Spring, HRW encouraged nations to maintain their commitment to building governments that respect human rights:
Building a rights-respecting state may not be as exhilarating as toppling an
abusive regime. It can be painstaking work to construct effective institutions of governance, establish independent courts, create professional police units, and train public officials to uphold human rights and the rule of law. But these tasks are essential if revolution is not to become a byway to repression by another name.
HRW encouraged these nations to focus on preventing majority oppression, respecting women’s rights and freedom of speech, and providing international support to developing governments. HRW also specifically outlined a need to address human rights violations in Syria and Libya [JURIST news archives].
The report considered human rights violations around the world and included 90 country-specific sections. The United States [HRW report] was criticized for its increasing use of the death penalty in criminal justice. The report also criticized the continued maintenance of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] prison and the indefinite detention of prisoners there. HRW also highlighted as issues life sentences for minors, women’s rights and the rights of non-citizens in the US.
The members of the European Union (EU) [HRW report] were criticized for neglecting human rights to focus on the economic crisis. Specifically, HRW said that EU nations must do more to protect irregular migrants and asylum seekers. The report acknowledged that EU member states were working on revisions to policies to protect these groups. The report went on to criticize specific EU nations for violations their treatment of migrants, including France for its recent ejection of Roma migrants and Greece for reports of violence and discrimination against migrants and asylum-seekers [JURIST reports]. The report also expressed concern about racial discrimination and complicity in torture in several EU nations. The report leveled heavy criticism at Russia [HRW report] for several human rights violations in the past year. The report pointed to recent legislation including a controversial law increasing fines for illegal protests, a law that labels nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that accept international funding as “foreign agents” [JURIST reports] and a series of provincial laws banning “homosexual propaganda” as signs of declining human rights in the nation.
In Africa, HRW expressed particular concern about the deterioration of human rights in Mali [HRW report]. The rights group said that the ongoing conflict between government forces and Taureg rebels has led to serious human rights violations on both sides of the conflict. In the Ivory Coast [HRW report] HRW said that recent military abuses and ongoing impunity for human rights violators continues to stifle human rights in the nation. HRW also expressed concern about continued violence of the M23 rebellion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) [HRW report]. HRW acknowledged developmental progress in Rwanda [HRW report] but expressed concerns about the freedom of expression and the press.
Mexico [HRW report] faced criticism for human rights violations committed by law enforcement in an effort to thwart organized crime. The report criticized the country’s use of military forces to combat drug trafficking and other instances of organized crime throughout the nation. HRW stated that military abuses during these investigations have not been widely investigated or prosecuted. In South America, HRW expressed particular concern about the ongoing conflict in Colombia [HRW report]. Specifically, the rights group expressed concern about the growing number of displaced citizens of the country and threats against human rights workers and journalists in the country. In Venezuela [HRW report] the group expressed concern about the deteriorating state of human rights under President Hugo Chavez, who was reelected in October. Argentina [HRW report] was praised for its prosecution of former government agents involved in abuses during the nations military dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s.
Finally HRW considered violations in Asia, focusing much of its criticism on the authoritarian government of China [HRW report], and its practices of censorship and persecution of human rights defenders. The rights group cited several instances of the arrest or disappearance of human rights activists and journalists promoting change within the country. The group also expressed concern about the governments strict censorship of media and internet access. In North Korea [HRW report] the rights group stated that the succession of leader Kim Jong-Un has not affected positive change in the state of human rights in the country. The report acknowledged in India [HRW report] government efforts to improve human rights, but emphasized a need to implement protections against rights abuse, particularly with respect to free expression and women’s rights.