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article imageHuman Rights Watch accuses UN chief of being soft on abuse

By Subir Ghosh     Jan 25, 2011 in World
The international community is woefully lacking in courage and hiding behind "soft diplomacy" in confronting human rights abusers the globe over, a leading human rights group said in a 649-page world report released Monday.
Human Rights Watch, in its World Report 2011 (PDF), flayed world leaders and global institutions for "simply feigning serious participation" and "ongoing concern" for human rights, claiming that these "expected champions" use rhetoric as substitutes for concerted action.
"The quest for dialogue and cooperation becomes a charade designed more to appease critics of complacency than to secure change," wrote Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, in the report's introduction. "When governments stop exerting public pressure to address human rights violations, they leave domestic advocates –rights activists, sympathetic parliamentarians, concerned journalists– without crucial support."
The report is particularly critical of the United Nations and its secretary-general Ban Ki-moon. Human Rights Watch criticised Ki-moon's obsession with dialogue and cooperation, and went on to say, “[The UN] has been notably reluctant to put pressure on abusive governments.”
Too many governments are accepting the rationalizations and subterfuges of repressive governments  r...
Too many governments are accepting the rationalizations and subterfuges of repressive governments, replacing pressure to respect human rights with softer approaches such as private "dialogue" and "cooperation."
Human Rights Watch
Farhan Haq, a UN spokesman defended Ki-moon, saying there is no blanket prescription for problems. “Quiet diplomacy and public pressure are not mutually exclusive," Haq Farhan Haq told The New York Times. "The secretary general makes a strategic decision on the most effective way to secure respect for human rights."
Others to have been criticised for their inaction are multilateral organisations like ASEAN, and the European Union decides leaders like EU high representative Catherine Ashton, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Human Rights Watch has not spared prominent developing countries either. Developing countries were criticised for timid responses to their rights-abusing neighbours. "Brazil, India, and South Africa, strong and vibrant democracies at home, remain unsupportive of many human rights initiatives abroad, even though each benefited from international solidarity in its struggle to end, respectively, dictatorship, colonization, and apartheid," it said.
The report says governments are increasingly accepting rationalisations and subterfuges of repressive governments. Instead of respecting human rights, these regimes are being accused of soft-pedalled with softer approaches such as private "dialogue" and "cooperation."
"The ritualistic support of ‘dialogue' and ‘cooperation' with repressive governments is too often an excuse for doing nothing about human rights," said Roth.
The report flayed the EU's "obsequious" approach toward Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the West's soft reaction to certain "favoured" African autocrats such as Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, and the near-universal "cowardice" in confronting China's deepening crackdown on basic liberties.
More about Ban ki-moon, Human rights watch, United Nations, Abuse, China