Human Rights Watch launches World Report 2007
EU Should Fill Leadership Void on Human Rights.
(Washington, DC, January 11, 2007) — With US credibility undermined by
the Bush administration’s use of torture and detention without trial, the
European Union must fill the leadership void on human rights, Human Rights
Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2007.
Today marks five years since the United States first sent detainees to
Guantanamo. The Bush administration has proven largely incapable of
providing leadership on human rights, while China and Russia are embracing
tyrants in their quest for resources and influence. But rather than
assuming the leadership mantle, the European Union’s approach is mired in
procedures that emphasize internal unanimity and rotation over the
effective projection of EU influence to protect human rights, said the
556-page volume’s introductory essay.
“Since the US can’t provide credible leadership on human rights, European
countries must pick up the slack,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director
of Human Rights Watch. “Instead, the European Union is punching well below
Human Rights Watch lamented the “lowest common denominator approach” to
rights protection by EU member states, in which governments that favor
accommodation drag down those seeking a tougher approach to serious rights
abuses. Examples include the EU’s backtracking on the sanctions it imposed
following the May 2005 massacre in the Uzbek city of Andijan and its weak
response to the 2005 royal coup in Nepal. Similarly, while abusive
governments banded together to block effective action at the United
Nations’ new Human Rights Council, the EU’s ability to respond was
crippled by its micromanaging approach and need for consensus.
The report identifies many human rights challenges in need of urgent
attention. Iraq has degenerated into sectarian and political
blood-letting, with civilians the principal victims. Ruthlessly repressive
governments in North Korea, Burma, and Turkmenistan deprive their people
of fundamental rights and dignity. Dictatorships persist in Saudi Arabia
and Syria. China is moving backwards. Russia and Egypt are cracking down
on non-governmental organizations. Iran and Ethiopia are silencing
dissident voices. Robert Mugabe would rather drive Zimbabwe to ruin than
tolerate political opposition. Civil war is reigniting in Sri Lanka and
intensifying in Afghanistan and Somalia, while conflict continues in
Colombia. Israel launched indiscriminate attacks in Lebanon and littered
southern Lebanon with cluster bombs during its war with Hezbollah. For its
part, Hezbollah attacked Israeli cities without distinguishing between
military and civilian objectives.
No situation is more pressing than the bloody crisis in Darfur, Human
Rights Watch said, with more than 200,000 dead, approximately 2 million
displaced, and around 4 million dependent on international food relief.
The conflict is now destabilizing Chad and the Central African Republic.
“Civilians in Darfur are under constant attack and the conflict is
spilling across Sudan’s borders, yet the five permanent members of the UN
Security Council managed little more than to produce stacks of
unimplemented resolutions,” said Roth.
US abuses against detainees in the “war on terror” remain a major concern.
In September, President George W Bush even defended torture – referring to
it euphemistically as “an alternative set of procedures” – and secret CIA
prisons. In October, the US Congress, acting at the behest of the Bush
administration, denied Guantanamo detainees the possibility of challenging
their detention in court via the hallowed right of habeas corpus. Human
Rights Watch called on the United States to close the Guantanamo camp,
noting that it is long past time to either bring to trial or set free the
detainees who remain there.
“The new US Congress must act now to remedy the worst abuses of the Bush
administration,” Roth said. “Without firm and principled congressional
action, the loss of US leadership on human rights will likely persist.”
Human Rights Watch noted some positive developments coming out of the
global South, including African leaders’ support for the human rights
trials of former Liberian President Charles Taylor and former Chadian
President HissÃ¨ne HabrÃ©, and Latin American support for the International
Criminal Court. But it also urged southern democracies to do more to
support human rights, such as by breaking with abusive regional leaders to
play a more constructive role at the UN Human Rights Council.
“Because many new democracies of the global South have emerged from
periods of extreme repression, whether colonialism, apartheid or
dictatorship, they could have special moral authority on human rights,”
Roth said. “But few have shown the consistency and commitment to emerge as
real human rights leaders.”
Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2007 contains survey information on
human rights developments during 2006 in more than 75 countries. In
addition to the introductory essay on the European Union, the volume
contains essays on freedom of expression since 9/11, the plight of migrant
domestic workers, and a human rights agenda for incoming UN
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Human Rights Watch World Report 2007: http://www.hrw.org/wr2k7/
Human Rights Watch Press release
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