Thursday, January 29, 2015
HRW issues World Report: ''Human rights no luxury but a way to resolve crises
Prisoner in Guantanamo Bay on his way to interrogation The US Senate wrote a damning report about CIA torture, but nobody is persecuted. (Photo Daily Telegraph).
“Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating many of today’s crises. That is what Executive Director Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said in his introductory essay to the
World Report 2015, HRW's 25th, which was released Today. In it HRW reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. According to HRW governments make a big mistake when they ignore human rights to counter serious security challenges. Because protecting human rights and ensuring democratic accountability are key to resolving these crisis.
The rise of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) is among those challenges that have sparked a subordination of human rights, according to HRW. But ISIS did not emerge out of nowhere. In addition to the security vacuum left by the US invasion of Iraq, the sectarian and abusive policies of the Iraqi and Syrian governments, international indifference to them, have been important factors in fueling ISIS.
While Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq has pledged a more inclusive form of governance, the government still relies primarily on Shia militias, who carry out killing and cleansing of Sunni civilians with impunity. Government forces also attack civilians and populated areas.
In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have deliberately and viciously attacked civilians in opposition-held areas. Their use of indiscriminate weapons – most notoriously, barrel bombs – has made life almost intolerable for civilians. Yet the United Nations Security Council has largely stood by, because of Russia and China using their veto power, while the United States and its allies have allowed their military action against ISIS to overshadow efforts to push Damascus to end its abuses.
A similar dynamic is at play in Nigeria, where human rights concerns are central to the conflict. The militant Islamist group Boko Haram attacks civilians as well as Nigeria’s security forces, bombing markets, mosques, and schools and abducting hundreds of girls and young women. Nigeria’s army has often responded in an abusive manner, rounding up hundreds of men and boys suspected of supporting Boko Haram, detaining, abusing, and even killing them. But winning the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population will require that the government transparently investigate alleged army abuses and punish offenders.
This tendency to ignore human rights in the face of security challenges was a problem highlighted in the past year in the United States as well. A US Senate committee issued a damning summary of a report on CIA torture, but while President Barack Obama has rejected torture, he has refused to investigate, let alone prosecute, those who ordered the torture detailed in the Senate report. That abdication of his legal duty makes it more likely that future presidents will treat torture as a policy option instead of a crime. This failure also greatly weakens the US government’s ability to press other countries to prosecute their own torturers, Human Rights Watch said.
In countries like Kenya, Egypt, and China, governments and security forces have responded to real or perceived terrorism threats with abusive policies that ultimately fuel crises. In Egypt, the government’s crushing of the Muslim Brotherhood sends the utterly counterproductive message that if political Islamists pursue power at the polls, they will be repressed.
“Some governments make the mistake of seeing human rights as a luxury for less trying times, instead of an essential compass for political action,” Roth said. “Rather than treating human rights as a chafing restraint, policymakers worldwide would do better to recognize them as moral guides offering a path out of crisis and chaos.”