News / Middle East

    HRW: World Governments Crushing Peaceful Dissent

    HRW Report: Politics of Fear Threatens Human Rightsi
    Alberto Pimienta
    January 28, 2016 12:26 AM
    Governments are using the politics of fear to roll back human rights. That is how Human Rights Watch describes the current situation around the world in its newly released: World Report 2016. The organization warns dissent is being crushed and rights curtailed by both authoritarian and democratic governments. Alberto Pimienta has more.

    World governments have been using the “politics of fear” to crush dissent, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
    In its 2016 World Report on human rights in 90 countries and regions around the world, HRW says authoritarian governments that fear peaceful dissent did everything they could to hold their peoples in a tight fist last year.
    “What we've noticed over the last year in particular is that the autocrats of the world, the authoritarian governments are running scared in the face of civil society,” said Kenneth Roth, HRW Executive Director at a press conference in Istanbul.
    HRW said societies have been empowered by social media on their mobile phones. This technological tool has allowed civic groups to mobilize large groups of people to protest in countries where organizing individuals would otherwise be impossible due to human rights violations like censorship in media.
    The organization warns that the Russian and Chinese governments are imposing the biggest crackdown in recent history.
    “Both [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and [Chinese President] Xi Jinping have made an implicit pact with their people. They say we will give you increasing prosperity; you let us govern without any real accountability. And that deal has worked for leaders while the economy improved. But now that the economy is in trouble those leaders are terrified that their people will begin to protest,” said Roth.
    The Chinese government is accused of using anti-terror law to crush the creation of rights groups in the country. Russia has made it harder for civic groups to exist when they receive foreign funding. Both nations deny the claims. Beijing argues it is running a lawful country. Moscow says it won’t allow foreign interference in internal affairs.

    FILE - Police officers detain a protester during an unsanctioned protest in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 30, 2014.
    FILE - Police officers detain a protester during an unsanctioned protest in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 30, 2014.

    Atrocities in Syria
    With peace talks to end the conflict in Syria set to start this Friday in Geneva, Roth said HRW worries the diplomatic process won’t tackle the atrocities in a country, where hundreds of thousands have been killed during almost five years of conflict.
    “Secretary [of State John] Kerry and his allies are going about the Geneva talks backwards. They seem to have the view that using Kerry's diplomatic prowess that he can simply knock heads in Geneva and arrive at some kind of accord for Syria without addressing the atrocities taking place on the ground, that they will end the war first and the atrocities will come later,” said Roth.

    Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Oct. 18, 2014.
    Smoke rises over Syrian town of Kobani after an airstrike, as seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, Oct. 18, 2014.

    Refugee Crisis Stirs Up Islamophobia
    The Syrian conflict created one of the biggest influx of refugees into Europe since World War II. HRW is concerned some European political parties are using the wave to promote Islamophobia. It also says the emphasis on a potential threat by refugees is distracting European nations from really combating terrorism.  
    “The issue in our view has been the chaos, the disorganized nature of the refugee flow. That chaos has given rise to a sense that Europe has lost control of its borders. That has given rise to fears of terrorism, that ISIS would slip operatives into the refugee flow,” said Roth.
    Terrorism Fears Lead to Privacy Abuse

    In the U.S., HRW notes that the terrorism threat is being used by lawmakers in the United States to try to reverse restrictions on intelligence agencies' mass surveillance capabilities. Something that, according to the organization, undermines privacy rights.
    In the United Kingdom and France, authorities are also seeking broader monitoring powers. HRW argues these measures haven’t decreased the risk of terrorist acts.
    “A number of recent attacks in Europe, the perpetrators were known to law enforcement authorities, but the police were too overwhelmed to follow up, suggesting that what’s needed is not more mass data but more capacity to pursue targeted leads,” said HRW.
    Abuses in Latin America

    Jose Miguel Vivanco, Director of Human Rights Watch Americas Division, told VOA deep abuses happened in that region in 2015. Cuba has been one of the biggest human rights violators for more than half a century now in Latin America. And while the U.S. and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations, Vivanco said not much has changed.
    “So far, the record of Cuba is exactly the same. What we need here is pressure coming from democratic governments in Latin America as well as Europe and other regions of the world now that nobody could argue that the Obama administration is implementing and promoting a policy of isolation,” said Vivanco.
    Also of concern: Mexico’s drug cartels and corruption, the possibility of impunity for FARC members in the peace process with the Colombian government and abuses by the Venezuelan government.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    January 28, 2016 10:36 AM
    In occupied Tibet, China has established a police state. Tibetans are monitored constantly & can be arrested for exercising their political & religious rights. There are over 1,000 Tibetan dissidents in jail right now. There is no media freedom in Tibet. Foreign media are banned w/o explicit govt permission requiring "guided" tours by Party officials. HRW & other human rights group are banned from Tibetan areas.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    January 27, 2016 11:06 PM
    As the overpopulation of the planet continues, establishing the rule of law becomes more important. The unrestricted masses of humanity, especially muslims, take advantage of any weakness detected in society, to advance their agenda, slaughtering people at will. Preventing births is much more preferable than murdering people in the most ghastly ways possible. Come on people, who is the devil and who is God?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora