What about human rights worldwide in 2019?
The US non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) provides a comprehensive answer once a year in its annual report.
The latest issue, which SPIEGEL had available in advance, paints a bleak picture on around 650 pages.
Freedom of expression – according to the UN Convention on Human Rights, actually an indisputable right – is therefore under pressure in repressive, undemocratic states for a long time.
HRW chief Kenneth Roth tried unsuccessfully this weekend to travel to Hong Kong, where the democracy movement is currently fighting for its survival. A little later, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: We ordered it that way.
Roth is certain: Beijing wanted to preventthat he can present the annual report of his organization in Hong Kong as planned.
But not only autocracies land on the index of the New York NGO. The activists also target numerous European countries in which right-wing populism and anti-Semitism endanger human rights – sometimes even fatally. According to the report, the EU's migration and refugee policy is also worthy of criticism, because in many places it does Human dignity violated,
Among the 95 states that HRW examines, many are Blogger and Prevent journalists from working, Who is featured prominently political opponents harassed, excludes from elections or even disappears,
Violations of personal rights due to complete monitoring such as Internet censorship are also typical violations. Or if the state with raw Security Force Violence strikes against demonstrators.
Read some examples of the most serious violations of human rights worldwide. The selection is incomplete; you will find all reports in the original
EU, refugees and the Mediterranean
Keeping migrants and refugees as far away as possible – EU states have apparently broken applicable law in 2019, reports HRW. In Hungary, Romania, Poland, Croatia and Greece documented helpers – and also THE MIRROR – illegal pushbacks, in which migrants have been transported across the border without asylum procedures, sometimes with violence.
In order to control the migration flows, the EU cooperates with questionable partner countries. For example, the EU finances the Libyan coast guard, which intercepts refugees in the Mediterranean and brings them back to camps, where they are killed, enslaved or raped. Families of migrants often have to send their sons or sisters by bank transfer buy out, EU diplomats suspect the government in Tripoli from refugee prisons To make profit, Morocco has also been intercepting refugees on the Mediterranean who want to go to Spain since 2019. In return, the kingdom receives a lot of money from the EU. The number of refugees in Spain has therefore dropped sharply.
The route across the eastern Mediterranean is again the most common, in Greece the 2019 route increased Refugee numbers significantly, Almost 60,000 asylum seekers arrived on the islands in the Aegean. The situation in the camps there, called EU hotspots, is inhuman and life-threatening in winter,
The human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated further, writes HRW. The authorities reacted when tens of thousands demonstrated in Moscow for fair local elections in August with police violence and arrests, The main criticism of the demonstrators was that numerous opposition politicians were not allowed to vote.
In many other cases, which the HRW documents, the Russian government reacted with repression to public criticism. Demonstration participants were arrested and activists for more climate, environmental and health policies intimidated and harassed by Russian officials. Freedom of expression on the Internet is also under fire in Vladimir Putin's Russia. A law has been in force since November 2019 that allows Russia to run its Internet on its own servers in the future. Similar to China a network decoupled from the WWW, Many Russians now fear censorship, which also criticizes HRW.
More than 4.5 million Venezuelans have fled since 2014. It is the biggest migration crisis in the recent history of Latin America. One of the causes of flight is the desperate situation in the country: medication and food are scarce. Maternal and infant mortality rates have risen sharply, partly because the health system has collapsed.
These are all symptoms of the political crisis under the leadership of Nicolás Maduro, who, according to the HRW, is directly responsible for numerous violations of human rights. The autocrat Maduro has undermined democracy and the rule of law, There are currently around 400 political prisoners in the country. Security forces have killed thousands of citizens over the past few years, officially for resisting state violence. However, the UN assumes that many of these cases are deliberate, extrajudicial killings.
In Jair Bolsonaro's first year as president, deforestation in the Amazon has increased significantly. Criminal groups are driving illegal logging; they go by force against indigenous people and environmental activists who defend the rainforest,
The government of the right-wing extremist president "practically gave the gangsters" the green light "by cutting environmental protection agencies' funds and cutting their powers," criticizes HRW.
Other problems include crime and police violence. Police officers killed 6,220 people in 2018, the last before Bolsonaro took office – an increase of 20 percent. This trend continued under Bolsonaro, fueled by the President himself, who says criminals should "die like cockroaches". Police officers sometimes acted from self-defense, the HRW report said. However, many of the killings are the result of "unlawful use of coercion".
Human rights violations by security forces are also a serious problem under Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. According to HRW, police torture is widespread. People have been disappearing regularly since 2006, for which not only criminals but also security forces are responsible. The crimes are often not investigated; Prosecutors and police officers failed to conduct basic investigations themselves. "Impunity remains the rule," criticizes HRW.
Journalists and human rights defenders, as well as migrants who are mostly on their way to the United States, are particularly at risk. Under pressure from US President Donald Trump, the government decided that the 6000 members of the National Guard fight irregular migration should – for HRW "a decision that de facto militarizes Mexico's borders". Detained migrants often end up in overcrowded accommodation where, according to the HRW, "inhumane conditions" prevail.
President John Magufuli started in 2015 in the East African country as a beacon of hope. The "bulldozer" wanted to fight corruption – but soon showed another side: His government systematically cuts political freedoms, criticizes HRW. New laws restrict freedom of assembly, expression, speech and the press.
Opposition politicians are de facto not allowed to hold political meetings. Bloggers must purchase licenses and are registered before they can publish; Web café web traffic may be monitored without a judge's order. Journalists are prevented from working and are legally prosecuted. Erick Kabendera, a well-known disclosure journalist, has been detained for months.
Modern Rwanda welcomes investors and tourists, pays attention to environmental protection and has dealt with the genocide of 1994 in an impressive way.
President Paul Kagame's other Rwanda nipped opposition and criticism in the bud. "State influence and intimidation have forced civil society actors to stop working on sensitive political or human rights issues," writes HRW.
A well-known television journalist, for example, has been missing since July. State agencies say he is hiding in neighboring Uganda because of tax debts. The relatives say there is no trace of him. He's not the only one missing: in 2019, three supporters of the leading opposition, Victoire Ingabire, either became found dead or disappeared without a trace, The cases have not been resolved.
Law enforcement officers also drive street children, street vendors and prostitutes out of the capital or intern them. Authorization of the authorities according to HRW: "abnormal behavior" must be withdrawn.
After Robert Mugabe's death, hope blossomed in Zimbabwe, but it is gone. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has proven to be at least as draconian ruler as his aged predecessor. "Zimbabwe remains extremely intolerant of fundamental rights, peaceful resistance and freedom of expression," writes HRW.
At the beginning of the year, numerous demonstrators died in protests against the ongoing economic crisis. Several women have been raped by security forces, Human Rights Watch said. In early February, hundreds of opposition figures were put behind bars.
A disturbing practice was added in the summer: government critics were often abducted and beaten up. HRW, for example, documents the kidnapping of the head of the medical union, Peter Magombeyi. Of other examples reported to SPIEGEL the Zimbabwean satirist Sharon Chideu. She narrowly avoided kidnapping, and her colleague Samantha Kureya was kidnapped, beaten and exposed naked.
Reporting on Iran in early 2020 will be dominated by the current crisis after Iranian general Qasem Soleimani was killed by a US missile. However, the HRW authors look back to 2019, which was already heavily influenced by the US-Iran conflict. Economic sanctions renewed by the United States after its withdrawal from the nuclear deal hit Iran hard; Medicines and medical goods became scarce.
Last November, a gasoline price hike drove thousands of Iranians onto the streets. They protested the regime, and the leadership in Tehran did not allow it: According to the HRW, it replied with brutal repression, and dozens of human rights defenders were sentenced to long terms. Videos and reports from citizens on social media show how brutal security forces were. The internet was switched off for days. Hundreds of demonstrators died and law enforcement officers arrested 7,000 protesters,
United Arab Emirates
The UAE declared 2019 the "Year of Tolerance" and launched an image campaign to portray its country as progressive. Even Pope Francis was guest and held a fair – without addressing the human rights violations in the country in one word.
However, the reality, as the HRW authors write, is different. The blogger and human rights activist Ahmed Mansoor, who is in political detention there, went on a hunger strike to raise awareness of his detention conditions. Prison conditions are often inhumane in the UAE, according to HRW. In many cases there is arbitrariness, solitary confinement, torture and ill-treatment, often the accused are denied legal advice.
Human rights violations in China are a focus of the new HRW report. Beijing's centralist surveillance state, tough crackdown on demonstrators in Hong Kong and the internment camps of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in Xinjiang result in a "perfect storm" for HRW chief Roth – practically a "super meltdown for human rights".
Roth precedes the report with an essay. He writes: "China presents itself as an open, welcoming and strong nation as it slides deeper and deeper into an unscrupulous autocracy." China is not only disregarding the human rights of its own people. On the international stage, Beijing is also trying to influence the meaning of the human rights discourse. Softening human rights standards and weakening criticism of them with reference to their own economic power is, according to the HRW chief, a strategy with which China threatens human rights worldwide.
In India, HRW particularly criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi's actions in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, from which New Delhi had withdrawn its autonomy in August. More than five months later, the majority of the people there still have limited access to mobile communications and the Internet. Hundreds of people were arrested, including leading politicians.
The government justified the security measure because militants in the region had killed at least eight people since the summer. However, according to Human Rights Watch, there are "credible and serious allegations of violence and torture by the security forces".
HRW also criticizes the fact that the nationalist Hindu government excludes minorities, especially Muslims, indigenous people and casteless people. In the state of Assam, the so-called Citizens Directory has also been reissued to help locate illegal immigrants. Almost two million people couldn't Show proof of citizenship, Your fate is uncertain.
Although Prime Minister Imran Khan promised social justice when he took office in 2018, the opposite has happened so far, according to the HRW: journalists lived in a "climate of fear" and would have to fear both state security forces and terrorists. A journalist who ran a well-known YouTube channel was stabbed in the capital, Islamabad. Critical reports are censored, activists are threatened and monitored.
Religious minorities are particularly at risk in the Islamic Republic, explains HRW. Became internationally known the case of Christin Asia Bibi, She was detained for eight years for blasphemy. Bibi now lives abroad – but hundreds were arrested like her. The basis for this is the law against blasphemy, which can be punished with death. Pakistan has one of the highest numbers of executions worldwide: more than 4,600 inmates are currently awaiting execution.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been waging a “war on drugs” for years. Since then, thousands have been killed without being heard in court. Although the topic is less present in western media than at the beginning of the raids against dealers and consumers who are already Thousands died.
However, the problem remains highly topical, stresses HRW: The extrajudicial killings in the Philippines therefore continue almost unabated. Activists who criticize the rigid line of the Duterte government are defamed, for example as alleged communists. And human rights activists emphasize that the drug war has other victims besides the illegally shot: countless relatives of the dead remain traumatized.
This contribution is part of the Global Society project, for which our reporters report from four continents. The project is long-term and is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Reporters are made available under the title Global Society Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe report – on injustices in a globalized world, sociopolitical challenges and sustainable development. The reports, analyzes, photo series, videos and podcasts appear in the SPIEGEL policy department. The project is long-term and has been supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) for over three years.
Yes. The editorial content is created by the Gates Foundation without influence.
Yes. Major European media such as "The Guardian" and "El País" have developed similar sections with "Global Development" and "Planeta Futuro" on their news pages with the support of the Gates Foundation.
SPIEGEL ONLINE has already implemented two projects with the European Journalism Center (EJC) and the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: The "Expedition the day after tomorrow" about global sustainability goals and the journalistic refugee project "The New Arrivals", in the course of which several award-winning multimedia reports on the topics of migration and flight were created.
cht, sar, vks, mst, lh, lüd