The 2009 Human Rights Watch Report is out.

Darfur woman

In their 564-page World Report 2009, Human Rights Watch reviews the human rights practices around the globe, summarizing major human rights issues in more than 90 countries.

The report documents ongoing human rights abuses by states and non-state armed groups across the globe, including attacks on civilians in conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan, and political repression in countries such as Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Zimbabwe.

It also highlights violations by governments trying to curb terrorism, including in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The report also addresses abuses against women, children, refugees, workers, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, among others.

The human rights crisis in Gaza, where hundreds of civilians have been killed in fighting between Israel and Hamas, underscores the need for concerted international attention to the rights abuses that plague today's armed conflicts, Human Rights Watch said. (Full)

An extract of the annual report:

Governments that care about human rights worldwide retain enough clout to build a broad coalition to fight repression—if they are willing to use it.

Instead, these governments have largely abandoned the field. Succumbing to competing interests and credibility problems of their own making, they have let themselves be outmaneuvered and sidelined in UN venues such as the Security Council and the Human Rights Council, and in the policy debates that shape multilateral diplomacy toward Burma, Darfur, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and other trouble spots.

For the United States, that withdrawal is the logical consequence of the Bush administration’s decision to combat terrorism without regard to the basic rights not to be subjected to torture, “disappearance,” or detention without trial.

Against that backdrop, Washington’s periodic efforts to discuss rights have been undercut by justifiable accusations of hypocrisy. Reversing that ugly record must be a first priority for the new administration of Barack Obama if the US government is to assume a credible leadership role on human rights.

Washington’s frequent abdication has often forced the European Union to act on its own. Sometimes it has done so admirably, such as after the Russia-Georgia conflict, when its deployment of monitors eased tensions and helped protect civilians, or in eastern Chad, where it sent 3,300 troops as part of a UN civilian protection mission.

But the EU did a poor job of projecting its influence more broadly, to places like Burma, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo. It often sought to avoid the political fallout of doing nothing by hiding behind a cumbersome EU decision-making process that favors inaction. Moreover, its frequent reluctance to stand up to the Bush administration in protest against abusive counterterrorism policies opened the EU to charges of double standards that poisoned the global debate on human rights and made it easier for spoilers to prevail. (Full)
More on The Road about human rights.

Picture courtesy Patrick Andre Perron


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