An independent watchdog organization, Freedom House, has named 17 countries and three territories as the world's "most repressive societies." Among those topping the list of the world’s worst human rights abusers are Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, and Sudan. The annual report was launched in Geneva.
The countries on the list are those that have received the lowest rankings on political rights and civil liberties. The report notes that unfortunately, the same countries keep appearing on this hit parade of violators year after year.
It says countries such as Syria, Somalia, Turkmenistan, Libya, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia are places where people suffer from some of the most severe, systematic abuses of human rights on the planet.
The director of advocacy at Freedom House, Paula Schriefer, says she is pleased the U.N. Human Rights Council is becoming more active in shining the light of shame on these countries.
In the past few months, she notes, Burma, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and North Korea have been the focus of resolutions or special sessions by the Council.
But, she says, Freedom House regrets the Council’s reluctance to go after the most powerful country on the group's list, China.
“It has never been the target of a successful resolution or a special session at the Human Rights Council or previously at the Commission on Human Rights despite the fact that egregious violations take place in the country," said Schriefer. "Groups like the Falun Gong, the repression of minorities, such as the Uiguars, Tibetans are common.”
Seven African countries figure among the list of the world’s worst violators. Osman Hummaida, the executive director of the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, is from northern Sudan. He lives in exile in Uganda.
He says he is sorry his native country is on top of the worst country list. He says the government has been employing more repressive measures in reaction to the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt,
“Since January, the government has opted to use different tactics and mechanisms to stay in power," said Hummaida. "They have been very disturbed by the situation in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. And, their response and crackdown on the demonstrations and protest by civilians, particular among students, have been associated with a very disturbing pattern of torture and other measures the government has taken against these groups.”
The Freedom House report says there has been an overall decline in global respect for the values of liberal democracy in the last five years. It says new threats have emerged in nearly every region of the world.
These include heightened attacks on human rights defenders and civil society, increased limits on press freedom and attacks on journalists.
Despite recent setbacks, the report says the world in 2011 is still significantly freer than it was 30 years ago. It says dozens of states have replaced dictatorships and authoritarian regimes with democratically-elected governments.