=> NEW YORK-The United States and European democracie
NEW YORK-The United States and European democracies increasingly have accepted elections conducted in countries that have no respect for human rights for the sake of political expediency, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The countries that claim the mantle of democracy, include Kenya and Pakistan, while others like Bahrain, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and Thailand have taken on the belief that elections are equal to democracy, the New York-based rights watchdog group said in an annual report.
In Pakistan, a key US ally in the war against terrorism and the fight against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the group said President Pervez Musharraf had undermined the possibility of having free elections next month by revising the Constitution and sacking the independent judiciary.
‘But the United States and UK , Islamabad’s largest aid donors, have refused to condition assistance to the govt on improving pre-electoral conditions’, the report added.
The US mission to the United Nations had no immediate comment on the Human Rights Watch report.
‘It said Washington, Brussels and European capitals ‘play along’ with the notion that a country can have democracy simply by holding elections’.
‘It’s now easy for autocrats to get away with mounting a sham democracy’, said Kenneth Roth, the group’s Executive Director.
‘That’s because too many Western govts insist on elections and leave it at that’.”
‘They don’t press govts on the key human rights issues that make democracy function – a free Press, peaceful Assembly and a functioning civil society
that can really challenge power’, he added.
The report said that grave human rights abuses have fuelled humanitarian crisis in Somalia and the Ogaden region in Eastern Ethiopia, where millions of people are suffering.
‘States claiming the mantle of democracy, including Kenya and Pakistan, should guarantee the human rights that are central to it, including the rights to free expression, assembly and association, as well as free and fair elections’, the report added.
‘It seems Washington and European govts will accept even the most dubious election so long as the ‘victor’ is a strategic or commercial ally, Roth said.
‘Nigeria’s leader came to power in a violent and fraudulent vote, yet he’s been accepted on the international stage’, he added.
‘It’s no wonder Kenya’s President felt able to rig his re-election’.
At the same time, the group said it was positive sign that Washington had expressed concern about the situation in Kenya.
AFP adds: Western powers have ignored undemocratic acts and rights abuses by President Pervez Musharraf’s government because of its support for the ‘war on terror,’ Human Rights Watch said. The group said in its annual report that Musharraf used a state of emergency in November to head off a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of his re-election and crack down on a movement for judicial independence.
Thousands of lawyers and political opponents were arbitrarily detained in 2007, most of the country’s senior judges sacked and harsh curbs were imposed on the media, it said.
“The US, UK, and EU all issued statements urging Musharraf to end the state of emergency, release those arrested, and hold free and fair elections. However, their actions did not match their words,” the HRW report said.
“At this writing, all three were continuing to prop up Musharraf with substantial military and economic assistance.Â”
The group singled out the administration of US President George W. Bush for failing to press for rights improvements or the restoration of the country’s sacked chief justice.
“As in previous years, the US muted its criticism in exchange for Pakistan’s support in counter-terrorism operations,” HRW said.
“Though Musharraf claims to be transitioning to civilian rule, his election was widely regarded as illegal and the country remains effectively under military control,” it said.
The government made ‘concerted and increasing attempts’ to curb the media, it said, with journalists facing pressure to tone down coverage of anti-government protests and some media offices attacked.
“Reporters working for local, regional, national, and international media faced torture, kidnapping, illegal detention, beatings and coercion,” the group said.
HRW said that ‘serious violations of human rights’ continue to accompany PakistanÂ’s counter-terrorism campaigns, especially in the troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The group said it had documented scores of illegal detentions, torture cases and ‘disappearances’ blamed on security forces – many of which were being probed by the chief justice when he was sacked.
But it also criticised militants who operate in the area, saying that they “continue to engage in vigilantism and violent attacks, including murder and public beheadings.”
Meanwhile, Europe and the United States increasingly tolerate autocrats posing as democrats out of pure self-interest, in countries such as Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria and Russia, as human right abuses go on, Human Rights Watch charged Thursday.
“By allowing autocrats to pose as democrats, without demanding they uphold the civil and political rights that make democracy meaningful, the United States, the European Union and other influential democracies risk undermining human rights worldwide,” the rights watchdog warned in a statement on releasing its World Report 2008.
Source: The Nation