Democratic leaders need to oppose autocrats more firmly, HRW alerts

The inability of Democratic leaders to effectively defend the fundamental values ​​of democracy has allowed autocrats to come to power in many parts of the world, said the head of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in an interview with AFP.

Faced with the pandemic and fears of climate change, “our fear is that if the Democratic leaders do not show up and do not take the kind of visionary leadership that the current situation demands, they will generate despair and frustration, a terrain fertile for autocrats, “insisted Kenneth Roth, interviewed in Geneva on Tuesday.

The organization’s annual report highlights the rise of authoritarian regimes and heavy-handed governments.

The 750-page document, released Thursday, details the bloody repression of the opposition in countries such as China, Russia, Belarus and Egypt.

And it also points to the recent coups in Burma and Sudan, and the emergence of authoritarian tendencies in nations considered as democracies: Hungary, Poland, Brazil, India, and until a year ago, the United States.

For Kenneth Roth – a former US federal prosecutor who has led HRW since 1993 – his native country’s democracy “remains clearly under threat today,” even if Donald Trump and his supporters failed in their attempt to prevent elected Joe Biden from legitimately, take the presidency.

Roth fears that the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021, “is just the beginning” and that “a much more sophisticated effort” is being prepared ahead of the presidential elections of 2024.

“It is urgent to defend democracy in the United States,” he considers.

However, “he does not share the idea that authoritarianism advances and democracy regresses”, since he believes that a certain number of autocrats in the world are increasingly in a vulnerable position.

And this is thanks to the various coalitions of parties that come together to expel “corrupt autocrats”, as in the Czech Republic and Israel, or the massive demonstrations that shake power, as in Burma and Sudan.

“There is a battle going on and a very strong resistance against those who want to reimpose or perpetuate authoritarianism,” according to Roth.

These situations have forced the autocrats to remove their masks and stop pretending their democracy, as in Russia, Uganda, Hong Kong and Nicaragua.

But the “zombie elections”, organized after having eliminated the opposition, silenced the press and banned demonstrations, do not “confer the legitimacy” that these regimes seek.

And these authoritarian maneuvers that remain in the open can give impetus to democratic forces, according to Roth.

But for now, too many democratic leaders fail to clearly convey the benefits of democracy.

“Throughout the world, we are seeing dissatisfaction with democratic leaders, especially because important parts of democratic societies feel abandoned,” estimates the official.

“There is an urgent need to improve governance in democracies and have a more coherent strategy for the defense of human rights in the world,” he adds.

As an example, he cites the United States and Joe Biden’s promises to put human rights at the center of his diplomacy and, although “unlike Trump, he does not play the ball with all autocrats,” Roth regrets that the president has failed to deliver. his words.

Although he acknowledges that Biden and other democratic leaders “are taking small steps” in the right direction, this strategy “is not adequate in the face of the great challenges that are presented to us or, in the last place, to win in the ordeal against authoritarianism,” he warns. .


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