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The World Report 2022: Rights & Rites

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has mentioned in its 32nd Annual Review of Human Rights Trends around the Globe, titled ‘World Report 2022’, that the dominance of authoritarian rulers in many countries has diminished to some extent in the last one year. The fight for the protection of Human Rights, too, has intensified during this period.

The International Non-Governmental Organisation, headquartered in New York City, has prepared the report, published on January 13 (2022), after reviewing developments in more than 100 countries across the globe. Indeed, the report has triggered a hope for a better world at a time when the influence of extremists has increased in many countries, women are being harassed in various ways, and political and racial discrimination is also on the rise.

Kenneth Roth, the Executive Director of HRW, has stated: “There is a narrative that autocrats are prevailing and Democracy is in decline. (Yet) if you look at the trends in human rights over the last 12 months it doesn’t look so rosy for the autocrats.” He also said that “autocratic leaders faced significant backlash in 2021, but Democracy would flourish in the contest with Autocracy only if democratic leaders do a better job of addressing global problems”. According to the Executive Director, this trend is evident in the desperate attitude of the authoritarian rulers in different countries. Roth stressed: “The conventional wisdom these days is that autocracy is ascendent, democracy on the decline… But the superficial appeal of the rise-of-autocracy thesis belies a more complex reality, and a bleaker future for autocrats.” In this context, the HRW mentioned how the Taliban fighters are torturing and killing former Government officials in Afghanistan.

The HRW has appreciated the decision of the Opposition parties in many countries not to form alliances with parties in power when issues arise like removing corrupt Governments or to challenge oppressive leaders, saying that it is another sign of weakening the autocratic rule. For example, it has mentioned the electoral defeat of Prime Minister Andrej Babis in the Czech Republic, and the end of 12-year premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel. The HRW has warned autocrats, stating that they cannot rely on manipulated elections to stay in power. From Nicaragua to Russia, the rulers are desperately trying to resort to “overt electoral charades” in an attempt to ensure the desired results. So far, they have failed to get the legitimacy that is sought.

Meanwhile, Roth has urged Democracies to deliver the good, saying that recent military coups in Myanmar and Sudan, and the emergence of autocratic-adjacent leaders in Democratic countries, such as Hungary, Poland, India, Brazil, and the US (until 2020), are not at all a good sign. He mentioned that although former US President Donald Trump failed to overturn the 2020 election results, the US Democracy is still “clearly being challenged today”. Roth has strongly criticised the European Union (EU) for signing investment deals with China, in spite of Beijing’s alleged use of Uyghurs as forced labourers. He is of the opinion that Democracies would fail to survive, if their Governments focus only on short-term political agendas, and fail to address urgent issues, like climate emergency, inequality, racial injustice and poverty. “Our fear is that if democratic leaders don’t rise to the occasion (and) demonstrate the kind of visionary leadership that is called for today, they are going to generate the sort of despair and frustration that are fertile grounds for autocrats,” he wrote in the report.

The HRW has also highlighted the grey areas, stating that the US Government failed to provide victims of racism with justice in some cases. The report has touched other areas, like the social control of minorities, and the refugee crisis.

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