Last week, the authorities in Belarus executed two young men who had been convicted of an April 2011 subway bombing in Minsk. While the deeply flawed trial and the swift, primitive nature of the men’s deaths may have disturbed the international community, they were not unusual for Belarus, which has consistently hovered close to the worst possible ratings on issues like the rule of law in Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World and Nations in Transit reports.
President David J. Kramer recently testified before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs about repression and corruption in Russia, highlighting the abuses of a regime that he called “thoroughly corrupt, rotten and rotting.”
In an alarming move to restrict freedom of expression, the government of Swaziland has proposed a law that will make it illegal to criticize King Mswati III on Facebook and Twitter. Justice Minister Mgwagwa Gamedze proposed the legislation, informing the Swazi Senate they would take a “tough” stance on those who criticize the king via social media and “set an example.”
Freedom House welcomes Abdoulaye Wade’s announcement that he will concede the presidency in Senegal after losing a run-off election to his competitor, Macky Sall. The reportedly free and fair elections should serve as an important example to neighboring countries in a region where electoral turnovers are often fraught with violence.
Press freedom in Turkey continued to downslide this week with the decision of an Istanbul court to ban Turkish newspaper, Özgür Gündem, from publication for allegedly spreading “terrorist propaganda.” The paper’s Istanbul offices were raided on March 24 and authorities subsequently seized the Sunday edition of the paper and barred the newspaper from publication for one month.
Freedom House condemns the Sri Lankan government’s smear campaign, which accused journalists and human rights advocates of being “traitors” for supporting a recent UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) resolution calling for an investigation into the country’s past human rights abuses.