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World Report 2013


Source: Human Rights Watch

The World Report is Human Rights Watch’s twenty-third 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 the end of 2011 through November 2012.

The book is divided into three main parts: an essay section, photo essays, and country-specific chapters.

In the introductory essay, Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth considers the “day after” the end of abusive rule in countries. As the euphoria of the Arab Spring gives way to frustration over the slow pace of change, he notes that toppling dictators may yet prove easier than the messy and complicated process of building a rights-respecting democracy. But while the future may be uncertain, he warns against pining for the predictability of authoritarian rule, and cautions those now in power not to restrict the rights of others based on so-called morals, cherished values, or whatever restrictions a majority of voters will support. In this crucial, norm-building period, he says, effective courts, accountable public officials, and institutions of governance are needed to ensure that rights are upheld and the promise of the Arab Spring is realized.

Next, Graeme Reid sounds a warning about countries evoking tradition and traditional values to undermine human rights, especially for women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community (“The Trouble With Tradition: When “Values” Trample Over Rights”). He argues that far from being benign, as its language suggests, a recently passed United Nations Human Rights Council resolution “promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms” via “a better understanding of traditional values of humankind” tramples over diversity, and fails to acknowledge just how fluid traditional practice and customary law can be.

As year one of the UN-backed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 2012 was supposed to mark a big step forward in addressing the failure of many global businesses to operate with sufficient regard for human rights.

But as Chris Albin-Lackey notes, efforts to promote respect for human rights by businesses remain hobbled by the failure of governments to oversee and regulate their human rights practices (“Without Rules: A Failed Approach to Corporate Accountability”). A “workable balance” is needed, he writes, which limits human rights abuses while acknowledging that companies can face real difficulties in addressing human rights problems linked to their operations.

Finally, Juliane Kippenberg and Jane Cohen criticize the failure of governments, international agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to see environmental issues through the prism of human rights and address them together in laws or institutions (“Lives in the Balance: The Human Cost of Environmental Neglect”). They argue that the environmental and human rights movements must work together to ensure that those who damage the environment and trample on human rights are held accountable, and that those who suffer environmental degradation can be heard, participate in debate about environmental issues, and seek redress when needed.

The photo essays that follow focus on the experiences of three very different groups: migrants and asylum seekers in Greece; people with disabilities in Russia; and children and adults living in, and working around, gold mines in Nigeria’s Zamfara State. Yet all suffer from lack of legal protections and a range of abuses that impact their health, ability to fully participate in society, and other human rights.

Each country entry identifies significant human rights issues, 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, the United States, and various regional and international organizations and institutions.

The report reflects extensive investigative work that Human Rights Watch staff undertook in 2012, usually in close partnership with human rights activists in the country in question. It also reflects the work of our advocacy team, which monitors policy developments and strives to persuade governments and international institutions to curb abuses and promote human rights. Human Rights Watch publications, issued throughout the year, contain more detailed accounts of many of the issues addressed in the brief summaries in this volume. They can be found on the Human Rights Watch website,

As in past years, this report does not include a chapter on every country where Human Rights Watch works, nor does it discuss every issue of importance. The absence of a particular country or issue often simply reflects staffing limitations and should not be taken as commentary on the significance of the problem.

There are many serious human rights violations that Human Rights Watch simply lacks the capacity to address.

The factors we considered in determining the focus of our work in 2012 (and hence the content of this volume) include the number of people affected and the severity of abuse, access to the country and the availability of information about it, the susceptibility of abusive forces to influence, and the importance of addressing certain thematic concerns and of reinforcing the work of local rights organizations.

The World Report does not have separate chapters addressing our thematic work but instead incorporates such material directly into the country entries. Please consult the Human Rights Watch website for more detailed treatment of our work on children’s rights, women’s rights, arms and military issues, business and human rights, health and human rights, international justice, terrorism and counterterrorism, refugees and displaced people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people’s rights, and for information about our international film festivals

  • Geographical area: International
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