Rome View: Double Standards on Human Rights Day

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On Friday, 10th December, the world celebrated Human Rights Day. Friday was also the day when China, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Venezuela, the Philippines, Egypt, Cuba and Morocco failed to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the day of an empty chair in Oslo that reminded us of all the political prisoners around the world.

On 10th December each year, we, in the Western world, usually recall the importance of protecting human rights. However, this year’s 10th December was different. Last Friday was not only the day when violations of basic human rights were remembered; on Friday, we discovered a very real double standard in the application of human rights. On Friday, we discovered that the Emperor is naked.

On Friday, Western ministries of foreign affairs celebrated Mr Assange’s imprisonment. Ironically and paradoxically, Mr Putin told Western countries how undemocratic it is to put a man in jail for promoting freedom of information and how hypocritical the Western world is.

As the historical advocate for human rights, Europe has to change its approach dramatically. The era of the “I teach, you learn” is over. It is difficult to explain to the rest of the world why it is that Europe places strong conditionalities to become a member of the EU club, but once you are in you can do whatever you want.

The values of democracy, open society and respect for human rights are intrinsically connected to transparency, the rule of law and the freedom of information. This has to be true in the so-called developing world as well as in the developed Western world.

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