Monday, January 23, 2012

Human Rights Watch's 2012 World Report

Human Rights Watch released its 2012 World Report for the first time in Cairo, Egypt. The 676-paged report contains 6 thematic essays and covers human rights issues in more than 90 countries in Africa, Asia, Americas, Europe and the Middle East.

The introductory essay titled "Time to Abandon Autocrats and Embrace Rights: The International Response to the Arab Spring", written by the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch - Kenneth Roth - focuses on international reaction to the "Arab Spring" and takes western democracies and dictatorial regimes of the world to task for backing autocrats and strongmen of the Arab world and putting a lid on popular protests - in a bid to protect their interests rather than human rights.

Another thematic essay -"Europe's Own Human Rights Crisis" - touches on dwindling respect for human rights in Europe and the complicity of some European Union countries in rights violations in North Africa. It highlights concerns about rights violations in Europe's counterterrorism efforts, intolerance towards migrants and minorities (especially Muslims, Roma and undocumented African migrants) and the rise of populist right wing extremism in Europe.

The World Report 2012 contains compelling photographs from the Arab Spring and a lot of useful information about the state of human rights around the world.

When I first downloaded the report, I immediately rushed to the Table of Contents and browsed through the list of African countries covered. The report touches on many countries in the African continent and elsewhere.

It's somewhat impractical to expect such a report to cover all countries in the world.

However, the absence of Cameroon on the list of 19 Sub-Saharan and Southern African countries was disappointing - especially because in the wake of the "Arab Spring" - which appears to be the theme of the World Report 2012 - security forces in Cameroon brutally crushed a demonstration inspired by pro-democracy protests in North Africa and the Middle East. A few weeks later, the government reportedly ordered the suspension of twitter mobile for "security reasons". Although the service was restored one week later, the damage had already been done.

It is worthy to mention at this point that the absence of Cameroon in this report does not mean that the country has an admirable human rights report card. There are real human rights concerns in the central African country that are worth highlighting in every human rights world report.

Watch a video of the presentation of the report in Cairo.

*Photo: Human Rights Watch.

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