Denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to
human rights everywhere
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) condemns Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine in violation of international law, and expresses its solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their struggle to protect their democratic freedoms and right to self-determination in the face of military aggression from a neighboring state. CIHRS deplores the humanitarian suffering that will be inflicted on the Ukrainian population as a result of Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukrainian territory.
As an organization devoted to promoting and protecting human rights and democracy in the Arab region, CIHRS views Russia’s attack on a sovereign, democratic government as a logical outcome of the West’s continual acceptance and complicity in undermining the international human rights system, notably in the reactionary, authoritarian “counter-revolution” to the Arab Spring. Russia has a glaringly direct role in enabling the Assad dictatorship in Syria to remain in power through the use of brutal military force against its civilian population.
Eleven years after the uprisings and revolutions of 2011, the Arab region is subjected to widespread repression under resurgent authoritarian rulers who have been empowered by the direct support of democratic governments in the West, as well as, in some cases, direct interventions by Russia and Iran.
Just as Russian president Vladimir Putin feels threatened by democracy in Ukraine and by the democratic movement in Belarus, authoritarian powers in the Middle East – including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates – could not tolerate any democratic progress and have made sustained efforts to restore the region to authoritarianism or internal conflict after the Arab Spring. To our regret and great cost, they have been largely successful.
CIHRS and other human rights organizations from the region have long warned that by failing to support peoples’ legitimate aspirations for justice and dignity, global authoritarianism would be empowered, eventually imperiling even established democracies in western Europe and North America. These alarming trends are all too apparent today.
The only way to push back against authoritarianism in Europe, the Arab region, and elsewhere is for democratic states to actively support vulnerable democratic governments and democratic movements, including independent human rights organizations on the frontline of global struggles against authoritarianism. For that support to be credible, it must be consistently rooted in adherence to international law. That begins with the domestic and foreign policies of democratic states.
Global authoritarians are increasingly interconnected and mutually supportive. These forces act collectively to undermine human rights standards and international law. They are helped by failures to uphold international law in the face of violations, such as the United States’ invasion of Iraq, or Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and East-Jerusalem and creeping annexation of the West Bank, and the West’s complicit support of ongoing violations in Yemen, Egypt, and Palestine and passivity in the face of gross violations in Syria, for which Russia bears much responsibility.
We call on Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine and return to non-violent diplomacy to address any legitimate concerns it may have. We support efforts by the international community to hold the Russian government accountable for its lawless aggression in Ukraine and call for sustained support of the Ukrainian people’s right to self-determination in a democratic, sovereign state.
At this dark moment for the international order and human rights and democracy, we call on democratic governments to finally make a concerted stand against the expansive and invasive authoritarian forces that have already done so much harm in Ukraine, the Arab region, Europe and throughout the world. The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to human rights everywhere.
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