World's Worst Regimes Revealed

Freedom House today released its annual list of the world's most repressive regimes at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Six are members of the UN body, charged with monitoring and condemning human rights violations.

The report, "The Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies 2005," includes detailed summations of the dire human rights situations in Belarus, Burma (Myanmar), China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Haiti, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. Chechnya, Tibet, and Western Sahara are included as territories under Russian, Chinese, and Moroccan jurisdictions respectively.

The report is available online.

Significantly, six of the eighteen most repressive governments--those of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe--are members of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), representing nearly 11 percent of the 53-member body.

"Repressive governments enjoying CHR membership work in concert and have successfully subverted the Commission's mandate," said Freedom House Executive Director Jennifer Windsor. "Rather than serving as the proper international forum for identifying and publicly censuring the world's most egregious human rights violators, the CHR instead protects abusers, enabling them to sit in judgment of democratic states that honor and respect the rule of law," she said.

A report issued March 21 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan acknowledged that the presence of these nations on the CHR has dealt a severe blow to the UN body's credibility. Mr. Annan recommended that states elected to a reformed "Human Rights Council" be chosen based on their compliance with the "highest human rights standards."

"The Secretary General's recommendation is welcome: the solution to restoring the UN human rights panel's credibility lies in the establishment of strict membership criteria," said Ms. Windsor. "In the short-term, however, it is incumbent upon the CHR's democratic member states to work together as an effective bloc that upholds the Commission's mandate by strengthening and promoting human rights and democracy."

An additional nine countries Freedom House rates as "Not Free" enjoy membership on the Commission: Bhutan, Egypt, Guinea, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Swaziland, and Togo. Together, "Not Free" countries comprise just over one quarter of the Commission's membership.

The "Worst of the Worst" report is excerpted from Freedom House's forthcoming annual global survey, Freedom in the World 2005. 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 is a non-governmental organization in consultative status with the United Nations.

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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