Dictatorial repression and democracy threats marked 2021: HRW

Geneva, Jan 13 (EFE).- The persecution of dissidents in China, Russia and Venezuela, the fall of fragile democracies in Myanmar and Sudan, and autocratic governments in Brazil, Hungary or El Salvador are some of the trends a new Human Rights Watch annual report published Thursday denounced.

The 700-page document, which reviews the situation of most of the countries in the world 2021, also highlights the deterioration of freedoms in countries such as Turkey, Thailand or Egypt, the “undemocratic” transfers of power in Tunisia or Chad and worrying abuses in the Philippines and India.

Despite this, the organization’s Executive Director Kenneth Roth said at the beginning of the report that “the popular demand for democracy remains very high,” as protests in Cuba showed last year, or those that defied military coups in Myanmar and Sudan.

The report said that in the second year of the pandemic, many dictatorships or leaders with autocratic tendencies threatened, silenced, or detained health workers, journalists, and other voices critical of the authorities’ response to the crisis when it turned out to be unsuccessful.

Countries such as Egypt, India, Hungary, Mexico, Nicaragua or Venezuela were examples of these practices, while in some cases “the pandemic was used as a pretext to end protests against the government while allowing others in its favor”, as happened in Russia or Cuba.

The report denounces China’s culling of freedoms in Hong Kong, where measures were taken last year after electoral primaries in which candidates close to Beijing were defeated, that “shattered” the principle of “a country, two systems” by which the communist regime did not prevail in the former colony.

The imposition of a draconian National Security Law in Hong Kong “completely wiped out political freedoms and allowed only ‘patriots’ allied with Beijing to run for office,” Roth said in the report.

The organization also spoke of the United Nations’ refusal to openly condemn China for its “crimes against humanity” against the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang. However, it carried out the first formal protest against Beijing over these events at the Human Rights Council, presented by 44 mostly European countries.

Abuses in previously fragile electoral systems were suffered in Russia, where opposition leader Alexei Navalni was sentenced to prison after surviving a poisoning attempt, or in Nicaragua, where all of Daniel Ortega’s rival candidates were arrested before the November elections.

Roth said at the beginning of the report that some dictators “are so determined to continue in power that they do not care about leading their countries to humanitarian catastrophes,” citing the presidents of Syria in Bashar al-Assad, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.

The former “has bombed hospitals, schools, markets and residential areas with Russian aid,” while the latter “has led his country to a ruin marked by hyperinflation, a destroyed economy and millions of people who have fled the country.”

Myanmar’s coupmakers have committed crimes against humanity by shooting civilians, raping and persecuting opponents, among other abuses, according to the report.

The report said the military, led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, ended Myanmar’s democratic transition by seizing power in a coup on Feb. 1 and arresting the country’s leader, Aung San Suu. Kyi, and part of her government.

According to the organization, Myanmar police and soldiers have killed at least 1,200 civilians, mostly protesters, including 75 children, and detained 8,700 officials, activists and journalists, while exacerbating conflict in ethnic areas. EFE


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