It was reported last week that Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa, the current chair-in-office of the 53-nation Commonwealth, may not attend the annual Commonwealth Day celebrations in London on March 10. A recent UN human rights report and data from Freedom House’s Freedom in the World survey suggest that he has good reason to avoid the spotlight.
Photo Caption: Nasser Shaikh leaves flowers at the grave of his brother, Khuram Shaikh.
On Christmas Eve 2011, Khuram Shaikh was murdered and his girlfriend, Victoria Tkacheva, was gang-raped while they were vacationing at a resort on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka. Soon after, eight suspects, including Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana, a local political figure with ties to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, were arrested. Eleven months later, they were released on bail. One imagines the regime hoped that everyone would just forget about it and move on, and that is basically what happened. Of course, Khuram’s family, starting with his brother, Nasser, never forgot. But most everyone else did, and the story receded into the morass of terrible stories, in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.
Bolivia’s expulsion of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) this month is a troubling development on its own, but when viewed in the context of similar actions by other governments, it raises questions about the future of American foreign assistance in the face of authoritarianism.
A majority of Americans see democracy in the U.S. as weak and getting weaker, according to a national survey released by The Democracy Project, a joint initiative of Freedom House, the George W. Bush Institute, and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.
On May 21, 2008, the UN General Assembly will elect 15 new Human Rights Council members. Twenty countries are candidates. Freedom House and UN Watch evaluated each candidate’s suitability for election to the Human Rights Council by examining its record of human rights protection at home and its record of human rights promotion at the UN.
Freedom House released an analysis of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa showing that the region has experienced notable increases in freedom over the past generation, although more setbacks than gains were seen in 2006.
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