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June 22, 2018
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Human Rights Watch: Success of populists in Europe and US endangers human rights

13.1.2017 11:15

The electoral success of Donald Trump in the USA and the triumphs of populists in Europe represent a serious threat to the protection of fundamental human rights. Today the international organization for human rights protection, Human Rights Watch (HRW), presented that finding in its 2017 Annual Report.

Populist politicians, according to HRW, are giving their publics the impression that it is correct to sacrifice human rights protections in exchange for personal security. At the same time, they are playing along with the policies of the authoritarian leaders of Russia, Turkey, and other countries.

"Trump and some politicians in Europe are doing their best to gain power by using calls for misogyny, nativism, racism and xenophobia. They are demanding that the public allow human rights violations as a necessary precondition for securing enough jobs, or rolling back cultural changes, or preventing terrorist attacks. In reality, ignoring human rights is the most direct road to tyranny," HRW director Kenneth Roth says in the introduction to the report.

Trump, in his campaign, spoke of banning Muslims from entering US territory or deporting so-called "illegal" immigrants. Many members of both groups are at risk of hunger, persecution by the regime, or war in their home countries.

The most visible European example of the success of populism, according to Roth, was the victory of those promoting Brexit in the United Kingdom, whose central argument was the need to halt migration in the interest of Britons' own employment opportunities and security. Roth said that instead of blaming problems on refugees, the political leaders of Western countries should dedicate themselves to fully integrating such communities into society.

Populists, according to Roth, are also contributing to the fact that the public is ignoring the risks posed by "strong man" government. Current examples are the Philippines, Russia or Turkey, whose leaders are replacing the rule of law with their own personal authority in exchange for promises of prosperity and security.

Demagogues and populists, according to Roth, must be stopped by voters, who must distinguish between cheap promises of easy solutions and policies based on the truth and on the values connected with democracy. "When populists consider rights to constitute a barrier to their ideas about what the will of the majority is, it is just a matter of time before they turn against those who disagree with their program," Roth said, pointing out that the predecessors to today's demagogues were the Nazis and the Communists.

The almost 700-page text is the 27th edition of the organization's Annual Report and assesses in detail the situations in many problematic countries which, according to the report, include many African states, China, North Korea, and Syria. According to HRW, significant deterioration of the situation has recently happened in China, where during a time of slowing economic growth, Chinese President Xi Jinping has chosen to enact the harshest crackdown against opponents of the regime since the end of the 1980s.

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is violating the fundamental rules of war and brazenly attacking civilians in areas occupied by opposition members, HRW reports. The desperate situation in Syria is being compounded by terrorists from the so-called Islamic State organization whose targets are also absolutely ordinary civilians.

The situation of the Syrians, according to HRW, is worsened by the fact that Lebanon and Turkey, where there are already millions of refugees, have largely made it impossible for any more to leave Syria. European leaders are also not taking common responsibility for the fates of the refugees.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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