"The United States left human rights to spoiler states"

"The United States left human rights to spoiler states"

26th January 2009, Comments 0 comments

Human Rights Watch World Report 2009:The United States lost its leading role as world wide defender of human rights during the eight years of the Bush administration.

The new American president Barack Obama will need to put human rights back in the centre of his policy to undo the enormous damage of the Bush years, says Human Rights Watch in its World Report 2009. According to HRW some governments profited from the US absence to undermine international protection for human rights.

According to Reed Brody, director of the Human Rights Office in Brussel, a lot of countries are to blame for frustrating the protection of human rights. They have blocked scrutiny for human rights violations and too many democracies either are passive or mount an ineffective defense.

"On the one hand you have countries like Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria that jumped into that breach and put in their top diplomats and worked to undermine the human rights system. And then you have other countries like Russia and China who also use their weight to veto considerations of Zimbabwe at the Security Council or to protect countries like Burma or even Sudan."

Human Rights Watch calls these countries 'spoiler' states who dominate the intergovernmental discussions of human rights. They put in more effort to undermine the system of human rights protection then countries who try to strenghten the system.


 Women take part in a demonstration to mark the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, 24 November 2007 in Rome. The top United Nations human rights official urged states worldwide to take more action against rape, domestic abuse and all other forms of violence against women. AFP PHOTO / TIZIANA FABI

" These spoiler states hamper the work of the United Naties" says Reed Brody:

"The effect is that they make it almost impossible for the United Nations to criticize the human rights situation in a given country. They are preventing for instance the arrest warrant for the Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur."

Unfortunally the European Union was not able the fill the gap that the United States left vacant at the front of the human rights battle. According to Reed Brody the EU is paralized by their quest for consesus with all the member states. The EU responded well in the Georgia-Russia crisis, but failed to emphasise its influence more broadly:

"The European Union should be the champion of human rights. Given that the voice of the United States has been so discredited its the EU that we would look to but unfortunately what we have seen from the EU is a weakening and a homogenizing of their voice. The struggle for consensus leaves European diplomats so exhausted that they don't have time to take on the rest of the world."

 AFP PHOTO/POOL//Brennan Linsley

 In this photo, reviewed by the US Military, aleg shackles pictured on the floor at Camp 6 detention center, at the US Naval Base, in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, January 21, 2009. The Guantanamo Bay war crimes court came to an abrupt halt Wednesday as military judges granted US President Barack Obama's request to suspend proceedings while he reviews his predecessor's strategy for prosecuting terrorists. AFP PHOTO/POOL//Brennan Linsley

The Human Rights world report summarizes major human rights abuses in more then 90 countries all over the world. It documents conflicts in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Georgia, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It also criticises political repression in countries such as Myanmar, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Zimbabwe. Human Rights is worried that governments violate human rights by trying to fight terrorism like France, The United Kingdom and the United States do.

Human Rights Watch hopes that the new American president Barack Obama will make the protection of human rights the heart of his foreign, domestic and security policy. It would be a great opportunity to regain global credibility after the abusive policies of the Bush administration, Human Rights Watch says.

Sebastiaan Gottlieb
Radio Netherlands


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