Human Rights Watch (HRW) has highlighted major human rights problems around the globe, highlighting conflict, repressive leadership, and a lack of attention to key issues, in its World Report 2023, released on Thursday.
The report details major conflicts in regions including Israel and Gaza, Ukraine, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Sudan, where countless lives have been lost or affected. It also notes that leaders in Afghanistan have imposed severe restrictions on women and girls, preventing them from getting educated and engaging in various activities.
In its report, the HRW has drawn particular attention to the “enormous suffering” caused by the war between Israel and Hamas. The report highlights the bloodiest ever Gaza War, which began on 7 October with Hamas attacking Israel. According to HRW, Israel’s response included cutting off water and electricity to Gaza’s 2.3 million civilians, blocking essential supplies, and imposing what the report calls a form of collective punishment – a war crime.
The conflict has killed more than 23,000 people in the besieged Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
HRW criticised what it called a double standard in the global response to the conflict. While condemning Hamas’s attacks, many governments, particularly Western ones, have been reluctant to criticise Israel’s actions. The report highlighted a wider issue of ‘selective government outrage’ and ‘transactional diplomacy’ with consequences for human rights around the world.
In their international relations, leaders are also accused of putting their own interests ahead of human rights concerns. For example, some leaders fail to raise human rights issues in discussions, even when meeting with counterparts from countries with documented human rights problems.
Alarming human rights trends in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region were also documented in the report. Lama Fakih, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said HRW feared that if left unchecked, these trends could lead to further instability with global repercussions.
In addition, the report criticised the European Union for its approach to migration, accusing it of trying to stem the flow of migrants to Europe at all costs and describing the strategy as a “failed approach”.
The report also highlighted the damage caused by climate change and economic inequality, citing 2023 as the hottest year on record, with widespread wildfires, droughts and storms affecting communities around the world.