No Surprises on ‘Worst Rights Abusers’ List

Freedom House’s annual review of the world’s most-repressive societies is a fixture among human rights advocates as a gauge of where the most work needs to be done. This year’s list features a set of countries that also represents major engagement challenges.

Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all ranked as the world’s most-restrictive countries on political and civil liberties in Freedom House’s report (.pdf), “The Worst of the Worst of 2010: The World’s Most Repressive Societies.” Belarus, Chad, China, Cuba, Guinea, Laos, Saudi Arabia, and Syria fared only slightly better.

“In this report, we identify countries where individuals have almost no opportunity to enjoy the most fundamental rights — regimes whose people experience heavy penalties for independent thought or action and where little or no oppositional activity is permitted to exist,” Freedom House’s advocacy director, Paula Schriefer, said in a press release.

The countries on this year’s list are hardly a surprise. While Turkmenistan and Uzebekistan may not have the public profiles of nations like North Korea, China or Cuba, they are — like all the countries on the list — habitual targets for criticism by human rights activists.

Some of them are more responsive to international opinion and pressure than others, however. With domestic changes afoot, countries including Cuba, China and Saudi Arabia have made some changes in the last year that raise hopes for more reform. China, for example, recently outlawed the admission of evidence or confessions obtained through torture during court trials.

The “Worst of the Worst” report is an excerpt from Freedom House’s annual “Freedom of the World” report, which can be found here.