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Human Rights Watch: World Report 2024

Human Rights Watch has recently published its World Report 2024, highlighting some very important themes in the human rights field, mainly selective outrage, transactional diplomacy, the alarming reach of transnational repression, and rule of law. Despite several negative occurrences, the report underlines some consistent efforts of institutions and movements who delivered some victories for human rights.


The cost of selective outrage

The report underlines the conflicts in Palestine and in Sudan, and the Chinese government’s repression. Many of the governments that condemned Hamas' war crimes have been hesitant to speak up about those committed by the Israeli government, following the refusal of the United States and the majority of EU member countries to call for an end to Israel's 16-year illegal closure of Gaza and to acknowledge apartheid and Palestinian persecution as crimes against humanity. Concerning Chinese repression, many governments, predominantly Muslim countries, stay silent on the Chinese authorities’ cultural persecution and arbitrary detention of a million Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims. Regarding Sudan, despite the International Criminal Court (ICC) issuing arrest warrants for past crimes in Darfur, Sudanese authorities have frequently impeded ICC activities, and the UN Security Council has done almost nothing to address the government's resistance.

Transactional diplomacy

The United States has demonstrated little interest in holding accountable human rights violators who are critical to the US domestic agenda or countries the US wants to counter China. Furthermore, when it comes to migration, the US has been hesitant to critique Mexico, which it relies on to keep migrants and asylum seekers out of the country. In Europe, the EU has focused on avoiding its human rights obligations to asylum seekers and migrants, particularly those from Africa and the Middle East, by reaching agreements with abusive governments such as Libya, Turkey, and, most recently, Tunisia to keep migrants out of the European Union. 

Transnational repression

Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India's democracy fell further toward authoritarianism, with authorities targeting minorities, intensifying repression, and weakening independent institutions, including federal investigative agencies, while Western countries remained silent. In Rwanda, the UN and Rwanda's international partners have repeatedly failed to acknowledge the extent and severity of human rights violations in the country and the harassment of Rwandan citizens living abroad. Similarly, the failure of states to stand up to abuses by the Chinese government has given Beijing a tacit opportunity to implement repression against Chinese and non-Chinese people and institutions critical of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

Rule of law

In 2024, almost half of the world's population will be able to vote in elections around the world. Unfortunately, in 2023, the world has seen society and the institutions necessary to protect human rights and free societies as the new battleground for global leaders seeking to remove inspection from their decisions and behaviors. One of the many cases the report describes is the one of Poland. Even with a new government at the end of 2023, the country's previous Law and Justice government actively impaired the rule of law by weakening the independence of the judiciary and silencing independent civil society groups and opponents. The cost can be quantified in lives: following a 2020 verdict by Poland's politically compromised Constitutional Tribunal, which effectively prohibited legal abortion in the country, at least six women died after doctors refused to end their pregnancies despite difficulties. 


Despite the reverse trends in 2023, there were some excellent examples of work conducted by human rights institutions and movements.

In March, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children's rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for war crimes involving the extradition of children from Ukraine's occupied territories to Russia and ordered transfers of children to other Russia-occupied territories in Ukraine. 

In November, the International Court of Justice ordered Syria's government to take all possible precautions to prevent torture and other forms of abuse. 

Brazil's Supreme Court guaranteed all Indigenous peoples' rights to their traditional lands, blocking Santa Catarina State's attempts to challenge land claims by the Xokleng Indigenous people if they could not prove they were physically present on the land on October 5, 1988, when Brazil's present Constitution was implemented.

Also in November, the UK's highest court unanimously ruled that Rwanda is not a safe third nation to send asylum seekers, overturning the arrangement that outsourced and transferred the UK's asylum responsibilities to Rwanda. 

In terms of human rights achievements, 83 countries agreed upon a political declaration to better protect people from the use of explosive weapons in inhabited areas during armed conflict, making it the first international pledge to address the issue. 


Independent, rights-respecting, and inclusive institutions, as well as civil society, have demonstrated their great capacity to put pressure on individuals in positions of political power to serve the public interest and map a rights-respecting route. The human rights and humanitarian crises have led some to question the viability of the human rights framework as a template for protection and positive transformation; however, the report emphasizes that this is no reason to abandon the framework, which continues to be the guide to creating inclusive societies.