01/15/2009, 00.00
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Human Rights Watch slams world government for putting human rights on the backburner

The World Report 2009 lists violations in more than 90 countries. The Bush administration is accused of “hypocrisy; the European Union of having abdicated its responsibilities in defending human rights. The report also slams countries like China, India and Russia that use the language of human rights to support dictatorships and oppressors.
Washington (AsiaNews/HRW) – Human Rights Watch’s 19th annual report has been available online since yesterday. In more than 500-page the World Report 2009 looks at the conditions of human rights in more than 90 countries and territories around the world. Its authors call on US President-elect Barack Obama to end the human rights abuses caused by the fight against terrorism during the Bush administration; they accuse mainland China of breaking the promises it made before the Olympic Games and of increasing instead repression against its own people; they also criticises Hamas and Israel for the disastrous situation in Gaza.

In addition to the country by country run-down, the report offers an incisive introductory analysis by HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth who looks at the treatment of human rights 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

“A government's respect for human rights must be measured not only by how it treats its own people but also by how it protects rights in its relations with other countries,” Roth writes.

The United Nations and its Human Rights Council, the United States, the European Union, China, Russia, India, and others come in for a critical review. Roth starts off noting how “the governments with the clearest vision and strategy are often those that seek to undermine enforcement”, then goes on to highlight US “hypocrisy” and European “abdication” on human rights but also developing countries’ use of big powers’ errors, ideological attitudes or self-interests to justify human rights violations within their own borders or among their allies.

For Roth these “governments tend to say that they support human rights in principle, but oppose only the way that rights are allegedly twisted, used, or perverted by more powerful nations. They mimic the language of anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, or solidarity with the downtrodden, but in fact, the spoilers are no friends of the persecuted. They find common cause with the dictators and tyrants of the world, not with the ordinary people facing oppression. They invoke Southern solidarity, but behind the lofty rhetoric, the solidarity they have in mind is with repressive governments, not their Southern victims.”

Nations such as Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Russia and South Africa are among the countries that stand in the way of human rights, actively involved in muzzling the debate over human rights in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Uzbekistan, North Korea, Sudan (Darfur) and Myanmar.

China is singled out for criticism for preventing five UN officials from visiting Tibet following a massacre in March of last year and for pushing Nepal to crack down on Tibetans demonstrating in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu.

Neither is India spared. In addition to tolerating violence against Christians, Muslims and other minorities within the country, New Delhi is criticised for trying to stop resolutions by the United Nations Human Rights Council against Sudan, Cuba, North Korea, and Belorus and for always protecting the government of Myanmar.

Russia is slammed for steadfastly defending the government of Chechnya, headed by a pro-Putin leader.

Roth’s survey ends by asking Western democracies to act immediately and do more to defend human rights as well as examine their own conscience in order to make respect for human rights a truly universal endeavour.

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