Human Rights Watch has released its annual book on the state of rights in countries around the world — a compendium of abuses and failures of states far and wide to protect the rights of their citizens as well as marginalized, vulnerable communities.
The United States is not spared, and this year, the effects of administration of President Donald Trump bring the country in line with some of the worst offenders, pointing out that “across a range of issues in 2017, the US moved backward on human rights at home and abroad.”
In a chapter assessing the rise of populism, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth wrote that Trump displays “a disturbing fondness for rights-trampling strongmen” and calls out the president’s regressive policies in a couple of paragraphs:
Trump won the presidency with a campaign of hatred against Mexican immigrants, Muslim refugees, and other racial and ethnic minorities, and an evident disdain for women… Trump was still able to take regressive steps by executive action — deporting many people without regard to their deep ties to the United States, reviving a cruel and discredited policy of mass incarceration of criminal offenders, easing oversight against police abuse, and restricting global funding for women’s reproductive health.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Roth said Trump “has broken all the taboos against racism, against misogyny, against xenophobia,” with the knock-on effect of making it “much more difficult to stigmatize authoritarian leaders.”
Indeed, Trump makes a point of praising hardliners, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. HRW points out that Trump signaled the direction of his foreign policy with the very first guests he hosted at the White House,”Some foreign dignitaries invited to the White House early in his presidency included those with poor reputations on human rights, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Turkish President Recep Erdoğan.”
Most of these strongmen and governments, notably, Myanmar, have adopted Trump’s “fake news” moniker to describe unfavorable news stories, and shortly before Trump’s Fake News Awards, the Committee To Protect Journalists released its own Press Oppressors awards.
The Most Thin-Skinned prize went to Erdogan, with Trump being the runner-up in that category. “In response to media coverage critical of him, Trump has threatened to “open-up” U.S. libel laws, sue news outlets, and subject their broadcast licenses to review,” the report noted.
The HRW book is one of several annual reports out right now calling out what they call Trump’s damaging effect on democracy.
Freedom House, for instance, issued its annual report on Tuesday, which pointed out that Trump’s penchant for attacking civil society groups, the media, and even the courts have a tangible, negative impact, stating that, “the administration’s statements and actions could ultimately leave them weakened, with serious consequences for the health of U.S. democracy and America’s role in the world.” The report noted that under Trump, the United States has seen the sharpest drop in political rights and civil liberties in over 40 years.