World Report 2019 is Human Rights Watch’s 29th annual review of human rights practices around the globe. It summarizes key human rights issues in more than 90 countries and territories worldwide, drawing on events from late 2017 through November 2018.
In his keynote essay, “World’s Autocrats Face Rising Resistance,” Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth argues that while autocrats and rights abusers often captured headlines in 2018, rights defenders pushed back and gained strength in unexpected ways.
Drawing on analysis of a series of human rights successes in international fora, often led by unlikely government coalitions, and of powerful activism by civic groups at national and regional levels, he shows that defense of rights worldwide is resilient and multi-faceted. Even though many once-influential governments have been missing in action on human rights or even switched sides, effective coalitions emerged to “raise the price of abuse and shift the cost-benefit calculus that convinces governments that repression pays.”
The mounting resistance to autocracy, cautions Roth, is not always successful in the short term, and this remains in some ways a dark time for human rights. But recent events also show “the promise of rights-respecting democracy … remains a vital, mobilizing vision.” Roth emphasizes that important battles are being won, re-energizing the global defense of human rights.
The rest of the volume consists of individual country entries, each of which identifies significant human rights abuses, examines the freedom of local human rights defenders to conduct their work, and surveys the response of key international actors, such as the United Nations, European Union, African Union, United States, China, and various regional and international organizations and institutions.
More specifically in relation to drug policy, the report highlights numerous human rights violations, including:
- False drug charges and police raids weaponised for political purposes (in Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia and Russia)
- Disproportionate sentencing, violations to due process, executions and extra-judicial killings in the name of a so-called 'war on drugs' (in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Philippines, Saudia Arabia, Singapore and Thailand)
- Widespread violence and killings perpetrated by state and non-state actors (in Colombia and Mexico)
- Racial disparities in policing (in the United States)
- Lack of access to essential medicines due to conflicts, external pressure or stigma (in Gaza and Ukraine).