This year has been a busy one for democracy advocates in Romania. In June, after the courts confirmed a two-year prison sentence in the corruption case of former prime minister Adrian Năstase, the newly appointed government—led by his Social Democratic Party (PSD) protégé, Victor Ponta—launched an unprecedented onslaught against several democratic institutions. These attempts to dismantle checks and balances, which received harsh criticism from the European Union, culminated in an unsuccessful July impeachment referendum against current president and longtime Năstase rival Traian Băsescu.
Freedom House condemns the death sentences handed down by an Egyptian Court on November 28 against seven Egyptian-American Coptic Christians for their alleged involvement in making a film that is critical of Islam. While support for all religions should be respected, blasphemy laws are in direct violation of citizens’ right to freedom of expression and have a chilling effect on open dialogue that can promote religious tolerance.
The Embassy of Bahrain in the U.S. will host a celebration in honor of Bahrain’s National Day in Washington D.C. on December 12th, even as its government continues to crack down on the fundamental rights of its citizens. Freedom House staff have declined to attend the event, which will be held at the Ritz-Carlton, stressing in a letter to the Ambassador Houda Ezra Nonoo that Bahrain must focus on ending rights abuses and achieving political reform before throwing a lavish event.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rights advocates from Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand received support from Freedom House, as they participated in civil society initiatives organized in light of ASEAN & East Asia Summits, held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from November 18 to November 20. They joined a number of LGBT rights advocates from the region in working to ensure that the rights of LGBT persons are part of the ongoing regional human rights dialogue, and are fully guaranteed in the now-adopted ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. Freedom House also co-hosted a symposium in Washington D.C. on November 28, which provided in-depth insights on ASEAN's Human Rights Declaration.
Following a recent decision to eliminate its ability to adjudicate human rights cases, the survival of southern Africa’s most important regional court could rest in the hands of Africa’s highest human rights court. Freedom House supports the efforts of Southern African civil society organizations to challenge the legality of the suspension of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Tribunal at the African Commission on Human and People's Rights. A positive opinion from the Court would send a strong signal to southern Africa's leaders and increase the chances for citizens in the region to once again be able to access an impartial supranational court with a human rights purview.
A draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill, that may be debated and voted upon as early as this week by the Ugandan Parliament, would further endanger Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people in a country where gay rights are already absent. Freedom House condemns the draft bill, and any laws that restrict the rights of LGBTI people, and calls for the Parliament to reject it.
Freedom House denounces Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's decision to claim sweeping new powers for himself through a constitutional declaration that expands his presidential power significantly beyond that of his predecessors, including those of Hosni Mubarak.