Sunday, February 03, 2008

Human Rights Watch Report 2008: Despots masquerading as democrats

Human Right Watch recently launched its eighteenth annual review of human rights practice in the world. In his introductory essay, Kenneth Roth, executive director of the organization, accuses the established democracies of diminish democracy standards to allow fake democrats to join their club.

“Rarely has democracy been so acclaimed yet so breached, so promoted yet so disrespected, so important yet so disappointing.”

According to Roth, this trend is not new but has become increasingly striking in 2007. He identifies the organization of fraudulent elections as a main strategy for autocratic leaders to pose as democrats. This fake democratic legitimacy is accompanied by political violence, silencing of media, shutting down civil society and undermining the rule of law.

The West's relaxed attitudes can be explained by competing commercial interests or by the fact that autocracies are allies in the fight against terrorism. He mentions fraudulent elections in Kazakhstan (2002), Jordan(2007), Ethiopia(2005), and Nigeria(2007) to support the argument. Furthermore Roth blames the USA and the European Union for banking more on personalities who claim being democrats than on the strict compliance to democratic rules.

“…when autocrats manage to deflect criticism for violating these rights by pretending to be democrats, when they can enjoy the benefits of admission to the club of democracies without paying the admission fee of respect for basic rights, the global defense of human rights is put in jeopardy.”

Human Rights Watch calls on the established democracies to more rigorously defend the concept of democracy.

See also the video of the launch of the report, listen to audio comments; sign up for the Euforic human rights or democratisation newsfeeds.

by Martin Behrens