The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, presented this Tuesday the annual report, corresponding to 2021, on the situation of human rights in the world, a detailed review, by countries and continents, of the state of individual, civil rights , political and labor rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions. As in 2020, the governments of Russia and China were the ones that violated fundamental rights the most last year, while Spain received a mention for cases of abuse of the police force in the repression of various protests.
In the report made public this Tuesday, Washington compiles the cases of countries whose governments have unjustly imprisoned, tortured or even murdered political opponents, activists, human rights defenders or journalists. They feature prominently on the list, in addition to Russia and the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Nicaragua and Syria. The report documents abuses against peaceful pro-democracy protesters in Burma, Belarus, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Sudan. Worrying cases of cross-border repression stand out, such as the forced diversion by Belarus of an international commercial flight to arrest an independent journalist critical of the Minsk government.
On China, the State Department has documented arbitrary killings by the regime, as well as enforced disappearances, cases of torture, and mass detentions of minorities. A special case is the “genocide” perpetrated by Beijing against the Uyghurs of the autonomous province of Xinjiang, as well as other Muslim minorities in the region. The systematic persecution of the Uyghurs was already denounced in the 2020 report. Another express mention notes the harsh conditions in some prisons, “which sometimes endanger” the lives of prisoners. As in the case of Russia, that of China is perhaps the most detailed in the document, with abuses ranging from restrictions on freedom of creation and belief to forced sterilizations or abortions committed under intimidation.
Although the report does not reflect the alleged war crimes in the invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, the chapter on Russia abounds in violations of all kinds, such as the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalni in August 2020 with novichok, a nerve agent also used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal two years earlier. The State Department document also confirms the monitoring at the hands of FSB agents (the Russian intelligence agency, heir to the former KGB) of dozens of opponents, as well as their involvement in the death of several of them, sometimes disguised as suicide. The text groups these episodes in a chapter entitled “ordinary deprivation of life and other extrajudicial or politically motivated murders” at the hands of the authorities.
During the presentation of the report in Washington, Blinken assured that the US is not in a position to confirm anything about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Ukraine, but said that it is a “real concern”. “We are in direct conversation with our partners to try to determine what has really happened,” he added.
Abuses in repression of protests in Spain
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Like other developed countries, Spain also receives its disgrace. The report refers to cases of police abuse in the repression of protests and, collecting the complaints from parties and NGOs, cites the examples of the demonstrations after the arrest and conviction of rapper Pablo Hasél for praising terrorism, during one of the in which a woman lost an eye due to the impact of a foam bullet. He also recalls the events in Linares (Jaén), in February 2021, in which two policemen were arrested for assaulting a man and his daughter, a minor, and which provoked several popular protests. Regarding the so-called political prisoners of the procès (Catalan independence leaders whom the Supreme Court condemned in 2019 for sedition), Washington makes a brief mention: “Neither the Government nor any international human rights organization supported that claim [independentista]”, regarding their presumed condition as political prisoners.
Despite the bleak global picture, the document also shows signs of progress and some glimmers of hope. In Iraq, legislative elections held last year were “more credible and transparent than in 2018,” according to Washington. In Botswana, a court advanced the rights of LGBTQI+ people by upholding the decriminalization of same-sex relationships. In Turkmenistan, all imprisoned Jehovah’s Witnesses conscientious objectors to military service were pardoned, a victory for religious freedom.
Unlike his predecessor, the isolationist Donald Trump, President Joe Biden has demonstrated from the first minute of his term his commitment to respecting human rights, by returning the United States to the UN Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, from where Republican Trump had withdrawn the country in protest at the organization’s treatment of Israel.
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