HRW criticizes Biden over “mixed signals” on human rights

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Human Rights Watch criticizes President Biden and other leaders of democracies for sending “mixed signals” on human rights Annual World Report published on Thursday, adding that they are “not facing the challenges before them.”

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Why this matters: Although Biden promised to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy, HRW executive director Kenneth Roth wrote that the public silence on arms sales to repressive governments and some human rights violations puts those promises into question.

  • The report also accused Biden and other Western leaders of failing to make a strong enough case for democracy to counter the global rise of authoritarianism.

What are they saying: “Biden took office promising a foreign policy that would be guided by human rights. But he continued to sell arms to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel despite continued repression,” Roth wrote.

  • “During major summits, Biden lost his voice when it came to publicly condemning serious human rights violations,” he said.
  • “The US State Department has issued occasional protests about repression in some countries, and in extreme cases the Biden administration has imposed targeted sanctions on some responsible officials, but the president’s influential voice was often missing.”
  • Roth clarified that Biden is in stark contrast to former President Trump’s “embracing friendly autocracy when he is the US president.”
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HRW also specifically criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for condemning the Chinese government’s crimes against humanity in Xinjiang but for being “blind” to violations in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Myanmar.

  • It said German Chancellor Angela Merkel undermined Europe’s condemnation of crimes against humanity in Xinjiang by helping negotiate an unconditional EU investment deal with China.
  • ,[If] Democratic officials continue to fail us, if they are unable to summon the visionary leadership that this demanding era requires, they risk fostering despair and despair that are fertile ground for autocrats,” says Roth. wrote.
  • “If democracies are to win the global competition with autocracy, their leaders must do more than highlight the inevitable shortcomings of autocrats. They need to make a strong, positive case for democratic governance.”

big picture: Other international organizations concerned about the global state of human rights and democracy have also recently warned that autocratic countries such as Russia and China are on the rise.

  • Non-Profit Freedom House said The world is in a “prolonged democratic recession” and it is estimated that democracy improved in only 28 countries in 2021 and worsened in 73.
  • European think tank International Idea concludes in a report That the number of “backsliding democracies” has doubled in the past decade and that since 2020 the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction exceeds the number of those moving in a democratic direction.
  • The White House and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
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go inside… Democracy versus China: Biden’s top priorities are sometimes in conflict

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