HRW sees progress in Pakistan after Musharraf
WASHINGTON: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday pointed to some progress in parts of South Asia, including the return to civilian rule in Pakistan after the end of the Pervez Musharraf presidency, and improvements ahead of polls in Bangladesh last month. In the US-based international rights group’s annual report for 2008, it said Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which had severe humanitarian consequences, and rocket attacks by Palestinians contributed to a “human rights crisis” in the region last year.
“Israel’s blockade of Gaza and restrictions on movement to protect illegal West Bank settlements, along with indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns and serious abuses by Fatah and Hamas against each other’s supporters, were major components of the human rights crisis in the Israeli-occupied territories in 2008,” HRW said. “Even after the June ceasefire, continued restrictions reduced the availability of basic goods and the provision of essential services,” it said, referring to a truce agreed between the Jewish state and Hamas which expired on December 19. Restrictions on the supply of electricity and fuel crippled transportation as well as water-pumping, sewerage and sanitation facilities, it said. The rights group accused Hamas and Fatah of “extensive human rights violations” as they sought to impose their authority in Gaza and the West Bank respectively.
“Reports of widespread torture and other abuse of detainees in detention facilities run by Iraq’s defence and interior ministries and police continue to emerge,” HRW said, including the sexual abuse of juveniles. “Human rights conditions in Iraq remain extremely poor,” the watchdog said. The rights body said the Iraqi government, characterised by its narrow base of support along sectarian lines, is struggling to handle more than 24,000 detainees, many who have spent years in custody without charge, and others being tortured. HRW blamed Asian giants China and India for abuses against their own citizens but also for backing military dictatorships such as Myanmar. It detailed worsening trends in much of Asia, including China’s Olympic-year crackdown on civil liberties and its repression of protests across the Tibetan plateau. Wars turned more bloody in Afghanistan, which saw the “worst violence since the fall of the Taliban,” and Sri Lanka, where the government last January formally scrapped a ceasefire with the separatist Tamil Tigers. Conflicts also flared up again in less-watched hotspots, including Thailand and the Philippines, while Indonesian forces in remote West Papua “continue to engage in abuses … with virtual impunity,” it said. Elections in Nepal, where Maoists took power and the king abdicated, “marked a new era… after a decade of conflict that claimed over 13,000 lives.” HRW also criticised Asia’s other population giant, India, for “serious abuses,” including in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, which was again rocked by major unrest in 2008. The report pointed to India’s “pattern of denial of justice and impunity” and a “failure to protect women, children and marginalized groups such Dalits, tribal groups and religious minorities.” “As the world’s most populous democracy, India might be expected to be at the forefront of global efforts to promote human rights,” it said. “However, its current foreign policy often would make a confirmed dictator proud.” In Myanmar–which HRW said also draws support from China, Russia and Thailand–democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi went into her sixth straight year of house arrest, one of over 2,150 political prisoners. “The Burmese military continues to violate the rights of civilians in ethnic conflict areas and extrajudicial killings, forced labour, land confiscation without due process and other violations continued in 2008,” said the report. Barack Obama must seize back the US leadership in global human rights squandered by outgoing President George Bush in Guantanamo Bay and other scandals, HRW said. It said governments opposing basic rights, including those in Russia and China, had rushed to fill a vacuum left by the US. HRW blamed Bush’s abandonment of long-held principles, including opposition to torture, in the US war against militants, but said Obama could repair the damage once he takes office on January 20.
Source: The News