The annual Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on one of the global chapters that determine the quality of political regimes around the world has been released. It is 700 pages long and its litany of numerous human rights abuses around the world paints a rather frightening picture.
HRW welcomes, however, the strong response of the international community to the atrocities committed in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade the country with clear intentions of destroying it, and documents the thousands of violations committed by Russian soldiers from the very beginning of the war. The organisation also spares no space in denouncing the abuses committed by the Ukrainian secret services, under the pretext of detecting and extracting confessions from traitors or collaborators with the Russian occupation forces, but is careful not to point the finger at Moscow for the plethora of violations and atrocities committed not only against imprisoned soldiers but especially against the Ukrainian civilian population.
The current interim director of HRW, Tirana Hassan, speaking to Agence France-Presse, described as “a beacon of hope the international response as well as the commitment of justice” to ensure that these episodes that shame the human race do not go unpunished. Hassan noted that “never before in history have we seen such a well-coordinated international response”, referring to the speed with which the International Criminal Court (ICC) had admitted the complaint led by the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the cascade of successive and severe sanctions packages against Moscow.
Paying equal attention to other criminal regimes
While the voluminous report reels off an extensive litany of violations in other latitudes and countries, notably China, Iran and various African countries, HRW’s leader notes a much more nuanced international reaction. Although she does not explicitly denounce it, it is easy to infer that the democratic governments most committed to fighting for the respect of human rights, in other words, what is known as the West, decline in their denunciatory impulses when this clashes with the preservation of their own political and economic interests.
In the case of China, and more specifically the persecution to which the Uighur minority is subjected, it does not receive the same international criticism as the abuses committed by Russia in Ukraine, despite the existence of a report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which does not hesitate to describe as “possible crimes against humanity” many of the acts listed both individually and collectively against the Uighur community in the province of Xinjiang, in the west of Xi Jinping’s China.
The other country most singled out by the HRW report is Iran, which continues to crack down with particular virulence on demonstrations led by women in the country’s major cities, with the new twist of executions of men who had come in support of women at such demonstrations against the theocratic regime of the ayatollahs. Tirana Hassan calls for a greater mobilisation of the international community against Tehran, as in her opinion “there will be no significant change unless pressure on the regime is stepped up and maintained”.
Afghanistan, Arabia, Pakistan, the Sahel countries, Venezuela, Mexico and many others also come under scrutiny, and HRW calls for human rights violations there to not go unnoticed. The report devotes special attention to the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where the peace accords signed last November seem to have erased the hundreds of serious violations committed during the war against the central power in Addis Ababa. Russia and China have a vested interest in ensuring that such crimes are forgotten, as they veto one after another all attempts to put the Tigray issue on the agenda of the UN Security Council.
Citizens’ Initiative in the EU
Coinciding in time with the presentation of the HRW report, the European Commission decided to register a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), entitled “Article 4: Prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment at the borders of the European Union”.
This initiative calls for legislation to ensure compliance with the prohibition of violence and inhuman and degrading treatment enshrined in Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in relation to EU policies on border controls, asylum and immigration.
It is true that this action does not in any way imply that the Commission confirms the material accuracy of the content of the initiative, but it seems clear that it could not reject this citizens’ request, given the trickle of incidents, some of them particularly serious, such as the storming of the Melilla fence, occurring in the border areas of southern and eastern Europe in particular.
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