For Human Rights Watch, “the future of autocrats is darker than it seems”


The thesis defended by HRW in its world report on the situation of human rights may surprise. Against all expectations, the human rights NGO maintains that autocracy is not on the rise in the world, and that democracy is far from being in decline. On what is it based to draw up this double observation? “Autocrats are on the defensive as popular protests mount, broad pro-democracy political coalitions emerge, and, unlike sham elections, simply framed elections are not enough to guarantee their continued power.», responds Kenneth Roth, the executive director of HRW.

Autocrats live in fear

If the NGO establishes an uncompromising assessment of human rights violations in the hundred countries where it is involved, it also underlines the concern of the autocrats for their future. “Let us observe the year 2021 and even the first days of the year 2022, suggests Bruno Stagno Ugarte, deputy executive director in charge of advocacy at HRW. It is clear that in Russia, for example, Putin felt not only threatened by the opposition ofAlexei Navalny, but also by the demonstrations in Belarus and Kazakhstan. » In other words, the brutal reaction of Moscow in these three examples would be the sign of its concern.

→ REREAD. Human Rights Watch accuses China of ‘crimes against humanity’ in Xinjiang

“Just as Xi Jinping has been greatly worried by the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. If we look at the case of Al Sissi in Egypt, Ortega in Nicaragua, Maduro in Venezuela, we find the same phenomenon: they monopolize force, destroy counter-powers, practice terror and live in fear to be overthrown. »

Internal disputes

In 2021, even in the most perilous situations, we demonstrated in favor of democracy, as in Burma and Sudan. No one risked their life to demand autocracy. Unlikely coalitions have even come together to oppose it: “Like in the Czech Republic, with the defeat of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. Or in view of upcoming elections against Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey. Within the Democratic Party in the United States, a comparable trend contributed to the nomination of Joe Biden against Donald Trump”, notes Bruno Stagno Ugarte. It is in this sense, therefore, that the future of autocrats would be darker than one might think.

Provided, however, that the democracies mobilize more in this arm wrestling which opposes them to the autocrats. “They often stoop to the compromises of realpolitik, supporting autocratic ‘friends’ to curb migration, fight terrorism or protect hypothetical ‘stability’, rather than defend democratic principles”, HRW regrets.

Breaches at Biden, contradictions at Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron

Unlike Donald Trump, Joe Biden promised a foreign policy guided by human rights. “But the United States has continued to supply weapons to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, despite the repression these countries continue to engage in”, emphasizes HRW. And, in Central America, the American President “has largely prioritized efforts to curb immigration over autocracy. »

TO ANALYSE. In the United States, the Biden administration returns Haitian migrants

Admittedly, the two European leaders Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron have mobilized to condemn the crimes against humanity committed by the Chinese government in Xinjiang. But, while holding the presidency of the European Union, the first “favored an investment deal with China, although Beijing uses forced labor from Uyghurs”. And the second “remained blind to the dire human rights situation in Egypt. »

Also, concludes Kenneth Roth, “the defense of human rights requires not only curbing autocratic repression, but also improving democratic leadership”.