Burma tops 'worst of the worst' list of human rights violators
Libya, just elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council, also appears on Freedom House's 'Worst of the worst' list of human rights violators.
The hit parade of the worldâ€™s worst human rights violators is out, and it reads like a rap sheet of the usual suspects.
The â€śworst of the worst,â€ť as Washington-based human rights watchdog Freedom House calls them, is comprised of nine countries and one territory: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tibet (under Chinese jurisdiction).
What Freedom House calls â€śshamefulâ€ť is that one of those â€śworstâ€ť â€“ Libya â€“ was just elected to the United Nationsâ€™ premier human rights organization, the Human Rights Council. Moreover, three countries on the organizationâ€™s expanded list of countries with only slightly better human-rights records â€“ China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia â€“ are already members.
â€śItâ€™s a badge of shame that these countries sit on the council, but the shame really goes to the [UN] General Assembly countries that elected these egregious violators of rights in the first place,â€ť says Paula Schriefer, Freedom Houseâ€™s director of advocacy. She notes that Saudi Arabia, for example, was elected to the council with more than 150 votes out of the 192 General Assembly members.
In all, 20 countries and territories have such appalling human rights records as to be considered the worldâ€™s worst. Rounding out the list Freedom House issued Thursday are: Belarus, Chad, Guinea, Laos, Syria, and two territories: South Ossetia and Western Sahara.
The â€śworst of the worstâ€ť list is just one piece of evidence that Freedom House offers to support its conclusion that freedom globally is on the decline, after several decades of general expansion.
â€śBy absolute standards, the world is still freer than it was 30 years ago,â€ť Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor says in the reportâ€™s overview. The less-good news: â€śThe last four years have seen a global decline in freedom,â€ť she adds, including in such specific areas the organization measures globally as multiparty elections, freedom of association, freedom of speech, rights of minorities, and the rule of law.
The report finds that the countries on the â€śworstâ€ť list represent a â€śnarrow rangeâ€ť of political systems with such familiar names as dictatorship, military junta, and one-party rule. Another common factor in many of the countries on the list is corruption.
The Human Rights Council, which sits in Geneva, is dismissed by some rights advocates because of the participation of some â€śworstâ€ť rights violators. The council was snubbed by the Bush administration for that reason, but the Obama administration reversed course and decided to try to reform the body from within.
Ms. Schriefer, who was reached by phone in Geneva where she is representing Freedom House with the council, calls the presence of â€śegregiousâ€ť rights violators on the council an â€śembarrassment,â€ť but adds, â€śThereâ€™s no reason the majority canâ€™t get down to business on the work of promoting and supporting human rights in all corners of the world.â€ť
She notes on the bright side that the council has managed to appoint an independent expert on Sudan, and is about to consider renewing the expertâ€™s mandate. â€śYou can tell issues like this matter to countries [that become the object of rights probes] by the energy and resources they put into avoiding it,â€ť she says.
The council has also registered a number of setbacks. A group of rights-promoting countries attempted to pass a resolution in May 2009 condemning Sri Lanka for repressive actions against its own citizens. But the effort backfired when supporters of the Sri Lankan regime on the council amended the resolution so it ended up praising the governmentâ€™s steps.
â€śNow Sri Lanka uses the resolution as part of its propaganda trumpeting the support it has garnered internationally,â€ť Schriefer says. â€śThat was not a positive step for human rights.â€ť
- Is China backing away from censuring North Korea over the sinking of South's Cheonan warship?
- Eritrea: Africa's version of North Korea?
- Qaddafi calls for jihad against Switzerland: Is it funny?