Arab Spring gives rise to new challenges

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 31, 2013 11:00 hrs

London, Jan 31 (IANS) The euphoria of the Arab Spring has given way to the sobering challenge of creating rights-respecting democracies, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.

It said in its World Report 2013 that the willingness of new governments to respect rights will determine whether those uprisings give birth to genuine democracy or simply spawn authoritarianism in new forms.

In the 665-page report, its 23rd annual review of human rights practices around the globe, Human Rights Watch summarized major issues in more than 90 countries.

With regard to events known as the Arab Spring, it said the creation of a rights-respecting state can be painstaking work that requires building effective institutions of governance, establishing independent courts, creating professional police, and resisting the temptation of majorities to disregard human rights and the rule of law.

But the difficulty of building democracy does not justify seeking a return to the old order, Human Rights Watch said.

"The uncertainties of freedom are no reason to revert to the enforced predictability of authoritarian rule," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

"The path ahead may be treacherous, but the alternative is to consign entire countries to a grim future of oppression."

Leaders in the Middle East are naturally eager to exercise their new electoral clout but they have a duty to govern without sacrificing fundamental freedoms or the rights of minorities, women and other groups.

The struggle over Egypt's constitution, which will probably be the most influential among countries in the region undergoing change, demonstrates the difficulty of protecting human rights, Human Rights Watch said.

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