Home inContext Democracies Failed to Support Human Rights in 2010

Democracies Failed to Support Human Rights in 2010

Samara Greenberg

Human rights in the Middle East were in retreat again last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded in its World Report 2011, which covers the worldwide human rights events of 2010, out this week.

Many of the region’s governments imposed new restrictions on standard and electronic media freedom and did little to discourage torture and arbitrary arrests in 2010, the report said. Discrimination and harassment of immigrants, guest workers, and minorities remained the norm, and in the few places where reforms were made enforcement was thin.

Egyptian demonstrators mass in central Cairo earlier this week.

In addition to a country-by-country account of human rights abuses worldwide, the organization also focused on “the flip side of the problem,” being “the failure of the expected champions of human rights to respond to the problem, defend those people and organizations struggling for human rights, and stand up firmly against abusive governments,” HRW executive director Kenneth Roth said.

Most notably, Roth criticized the UN and EU for being “infatuated with the idea of dialogue and cooperation” at the expense of seriously pressuring human rights violators to change, and said that “‘Dialogue’ and ‘cooperation’ with repressive governments is too often an excuse for doing nothing about human rights.” Mentioning U.S. President Obama, Roth said his “famed eloquence…has sometimes eluded him when it comes to defending human rights.”

The Human Rights Watch report is particularly interesting this week, as populations in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan continue to stage mass demonstrations against their dictatorial governments without much comment from the U.S., EU, or UN. Perhaps it’s time the voices of the free world take a serious stance against government repression in the Middle East.