The growing repression of any dissenting voice by the regimes of countries such as China, Russia, Nicaragua, El Salvador or Belarus; the authoritarian turn in “previously consolidated” democracies such as Brazil, Hungary and Turkey, and the “non-democratic” transfers of power in countries such as Tunisia, marked 2021, according to the annual report that Human Rights Watch (HRW) released this Thursday in the city. Switzerland of Geneva. However, this scenario hides a “gloomier future” for autocrats than it seems, since the popular desire for democracy remains “strong”, says Kennet Roth, executive director of the human rights organization, in the document’s foreword.
The 764-page text highlights this “complex reality” and the hope that illuminates the resistance of many peoples to the violation of their human, political and social rights. The report highlights how citizens of countries such as Cuba, Myanmar and Sudan took to the streets in the past year to protest against autocracies and coups. “In country after country, large numbers of people have recently taken to the streets, even at the risk of being arrested or shot,” Roth notes.
If HRW praises the response of these peoples in its document, the actions of Western leaders seem much more reprehensible. The report criticizes the West’s response to the repression of dictatorships, which it defines as “weak”, and regrets that the countries that lead the world concert have not been able to “face” other challenges either, among which it cites from the climate crisis, the covid-19 pandemic and the lack of access to vaccines in less developed countries, to poverty, inequality and racial injustice.
To Spain, HRW reproaches the hot returns of migrants and asylum seekers, including minors across its borders -specifically, it cites the case of Ceuta-, the deaths of migrants mainly on the Canary Islands route, the poverty increased by covid-19, as well as the difficulty of exercising rights included in Spanish legislation, such as abortion.
Among the document’s criticisms of Western countries and leaders, the negative judgment on the performance of the US president stands out. The organization stresses that, despite the fact that Joe Biden took office in January 2021 with the promise of placing human rights at the center of his foreign policy, the US “has continued to sell weapons to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel despite its persistent repression,” said Roth, who also disapproves of the actions of leaders such as French President Emmanuel Macron and former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who “have shown similar weakness in their defense of democracy.”
The report goes on to recount how in the second year of the pandemic, many dictatorships or autocracies continued to use the health situation “as a pretext” to threaten, silence or arrest dissidents. Countries such as Egypt, India, Hungary, Mexico, Nicaragua or Venezuela were examples of this practice, according to HRW, while in cases such as Russia or Cuba, the excuse of covid-19 was used to “end protests against the government while others were allowed in their favor.”
Join EL PAÍS to follow all the news and read without limits.
One of the examples of this instrumentalization of the pandemic is – denounces the NGO – that of the Hungarian ultra-nationalist government of Viktor Orbán, which has maintained the state of emergency in force since 2020. This measure allows it to govern by decree on health issues and even suspend the application of the laws. The Orbán Administration also maintained its attacks against democratic institutions, the press and the LTGBI community in 2021, the document makes clear.
The organization’s report, which reviews the human rights situation in more than a hundred countries around the world, also notes China’s check on the last strongholds of freedom in Hong Kong and the imposition of a draconian Security Law National that “completely ended political freedoms and allowed only “patriots” allied with Beijing to present candidacies,” Roth underlines in the prologue. HRW also regrets the silence of the United Nations and its refusal to openly condemn China for its “crimes against humanity” against the Uyghur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region.
HRW also describes the increase in abuses in previously fragile electoral systems and highlights those that took place in Russia, where opposition leader Alexei Navalni was sentenced to prison after surviving a poisoning attempt, or in Nicaragua, where all candidates rivals of Daniel Ortega were arrested before the November elections.
“The defense of human rights requires not only combating the repression of dictatorships but also improving political leadership in democracies,” concludes the HRW document, an organization founded in 1978 that claims to be financed with private donations and foundations and not accept government funds, “neither directly nor indirectly.”
Follow all the international information at Facebook Y Twitter, o en our weekly newsletter.