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.
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The “worst of the worst” 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.Skip to next paragraph
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“By absolute standards, the world is still freer than it was 30 years ago,” Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor says in the report’s overview. The less-good news: “The last four years have seen a global decline in freedom,” 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 “worst” list represent a “narrow range” 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 “worst” 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 “egregious” rights violators on the council an “embarrassment,” but adds, “There’s no reason the majority can’t get down to business on the work of promoting and supporting human rights in all corners of the world.”
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 expert’s mandate. “You 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,” 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 government’s steps.
“Now Sri Lanka uses the resolution as part of its propaganda trumpeting the support it has garnered internationally,” Schriefer says. “That was not a positive step for human rights.”
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