Monday, January 4, 2010

What constitutes a rogue state?

Here are two country summaries from Amnesty International's annual international human rights report. The first country:
Attacks on journalists were widespread. Human rights defenders continued to suffer harassment. Prison conditions provoked hunger strikes in facilities across the country. Some significant steps were taken to implement the 2007 law on violence against women but there was a lack of commitment from many of the authorities responsible. Lack of arms control contributed to high levels of violence and public insecurity.
Hmm. Not so hot certainly, but compare it to this:
Thousands of people continued to be detained without trial as terrorism suspects and hundreds more were arrested. In October, the government announced that more than 900 would be brought to trial. Human rights activists and peaceful critics of the government were detained or remained in prison, including prisoners of conscience. Freedom of expression, religion, association and assembly remained tightly restricted. Women continued to face severe discrimination in law and practice. Migrant workers suffered exploitation and abuse with little possibility of redress. Refugees and asylum-seekers were not adequately protected. The administration of justice remained shrouded in secrecy and was summary in nature. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees were widespread and systematic, and carried out with impunity. Flogging was used widely as a main and additional punishment. The death penalty continued to be used extensively and in a discriminatory manner against migrant workers from developing countries, women and poor people. At least 102 people were executed.
As Stimpson points out, there are additional differences between these countries:
Country A's head of state has won national elections. Country B doesn't hold elections for its leader.

A has no death penalty; B has capital punishment and uses it a lot.

AI's report lists prisoners of conscience in B but not A.

Torture is "widespread" in B but not in A.
So neither country has a stellar human rights record, but B seems far worse than A. And, notably, the way these countries are treated by the Western powers is dramatically different; one is seen as a valuable ally, while the other has been declared an international pariah. And what are these countries?

Country A is Venezuela. Country B is Saudi Arabia. Gee, wonder why such a difference?

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