Freedom House Releases Report on Repressive Countries, Urges Congress and UN Human Rights Council to Take Note

Washington, D.C.

Freedom House today released The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2006, its annual compilation of the most dictatorial regimes in the world, as the organization's executive director testified before Congress and called on the UN Human Rights Council to address abuses in these countries.

The report, which is intended to assist the new Human Rights Council, as well as members of Congress, journalists and other policymakers, includes detailed descriptions of the dire human rights situations in eight countries judged to have the worst records in the past year. These countries are Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Also included are two territories, Chechnya and Tibet, whose inhabitants suffer intense repression.

In addition, The Worst of the Worst includes nine other countries near the bottom of Freedom House's list of the most repressive: Belarus, China, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Haiti, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. The territory of Western Sahara is also included in this group. While these states scored slightly better than the "worst of the worst," they offer very limited scope for political discussion and activity.

The report is available online.

"This report should be viewed as the minimal 'to do' list to be addressed by members of the UN Human Rights Council and those governments that profess to care about human rights," Jennifer Windsor, Executive Director of Freedom House, told members of the House International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Africa, Human Rights and Global Operations. "The Council urgently needs to prove that it can and will act in a constructive manner in furtherance of its mandate, and will be judged on its willingness and ability to take action to address country and situation-specific human rights violations," she added.

The Council includes among its 47 members three countries profiled in The Worst of the Worst: China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

The UN Human Rights Council was established this year as a replacement for the much-criticized UN Commission on Human Rights, and met for the first time in June. A number of decisions, including the establishment of a working group to determine guidelines for a new Universal Periodic Review, were taken at the meeting. However, despite the human rights crises that exist in places like North Korea, Darfur, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere, the Council has only exercised its authority for country specific action in two special sessions focusing on situations in Gaza and Lebanon, and then passed resolutions widely seen in the human rights community as unbalanced condemnations of Israel without reference to human rights violations by Hamas or Hizbollah or the states that support them.

The Council will meet again in Geneva for three weeks later this month.

"While we continue to have serious concerns, Freedom House believes that the potential for the Council's success is not yet lost," Ms. Windsor told the Subcommittee. "We believe that the U.S. government and other democratic countries should make every effort to strengthen, not weaken, their engagement with the Council and to work together more effectively to ensure that the United Nations regains its leadership in advancing human rights and freedom so that human rights crises like those in today's report are directly addressed."

The Worst of the Worst country reports are excerpted from Freedom House's forthcoming annual global survey, Freedom in the World 2006. The countries deemed the most repressive earn some of the worst numerical ratings according to the survey's methodology, which measures the state of political rights and civil liberties worldwide and classifies countries as Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.

Freedom House, an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has monitored political rights and civil liberties in every country of the world since 1972 for its flagship publication, Freedom in the World.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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