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Arab Spring states more oppressive than ever

Leading NGO Human Rights Watch claims freedom of expression vanishing in Egypt and Libya in annual report.

Two years after the historic wave of revolutions, Arab populations have swapped one form of oppression for another, announced Human Rights Watch in its 2013 report documenting rights abuses in 90 countries.

"Euphoria has given way to despair and deep concern," Executive Director Kenneth Roth told reporters at the report launch in London. The 664-page report gave its primary focus to abuse of minority rights in the post-revolution states.

Egypt, described as the most important country in the region, was severely criticized for a constitution "filled with loopholes…and a contradiction between majoritarian rules and basic rights that needs to be resolved."

The report notes an increase in prosecutions for dissent since the revolution, closure of independent media and arrest of NGO workers.

On Libya, Roth said "the major problem is the government does not control a lot of the country." Over 3,000 people are being illegally held by militia formed to fight former dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The government is also criticized for enacting new laws cracking down on freedom of expression and religion.

Tunisia has fared better, and was praised for an "inclusive" approach to its new constitution. This is supported by a recent report from UK-based think tank Freedom House that found "Tunisia's police force that is significantly more accountable" since the ousting of former Dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Roth went on to claim that troubles in Algeria and Mali were a direct consequence of the Arab revolution, but warned against interpreting the volatility as proving “democracy is too dangerous” in the Arab world.

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"This year has seen the biggest backsliding since the Soviet Union, with crackdowns on NGOs and protests designed to close the space for dissent," said Roth.

Fascism in Europe: Q+A with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth

Metro: How concerned are you at the growth of extreme right-wing groups in Europe?

Roth: There is clearly a significant increase in xenophobic and racist violence in Greece, and it’s not surprising you get that right-wing extremism in this situation of austerity and misery. The Greek government is responding to some extent and has created a special hate crimes unit within the police force. But I think its important that the EU as a whole address the issue, as clearly this could spread and it’s important to contain it.

So austerity programs are fueling racist violence?

The Economic crisis is contributing but that doesn’t excuse it and government have a duty when right wing violence arises to contain it vigorously. Some steps have been taken but its not solved. Immigrants have become very vulnerable and there is an urgent need to address that.

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