More than 70 countries are ruled by dictators who exercise arbitrary authority over their citizens and who cannot be removed by legal means. Each year, Parade publishes a list of the 10 worst dictators in the world. The following is the list with a description and picture of each of this year’s human rights violators.
The 63-year-old dictator has been in power since 1989. Last year he was ranked #1 and retains that distinction this year because of his brutal and deadly human-rights abuses in theDarfur region of Sudan. Over the last four years, pro-Bashir forces have killed at least 200,00 people and driven another 5.3 million from their homes. Over 700,000 have fled the country. (Author’s comment: If we found oil in Darfur would that get our attention?)
2) Kim Jong-Il – North Korea
For all the attention Kim Jong-Il receives, he is one of the world’s most mysterious dictators. Kim Jong-Il came to power in 1994 with the death of his father, Kim Il Sung, dubbed the “Great Leader.” Although the elder dictator utilized both Marxist-Leninist ideology and juche philosophy, Kim Jong-Il has subordinated his father’s ideologies to the more militant “Red Banner” policy, introduced in 1996.
Amnesty International’s long-standing concerns about human rights violations in North Korea include the use of torture and the death penalty, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, inhumane prison conditions and the near-total suppression of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and movement. (Author’s comment: Strange how we deal with this member of the “Axis of Evil” differently than we did Saddam Hussein.)
3) Sayyid Ali Khamenei – Iran
The Ayatollah Khamenei came to power in 1989, and, along with his 12-man Guardian Council, controls all decisions regarding Iran’s relations. The regime has increasingly suppressed freedom of expression, and strict regulations regarding the treatment of women are imposed with severe penalties for violation.
4) Hu Jintao – China
Hu Jintao, and member of the Communist Party, became president of China in 2003. Although Jintao is seen as a reformist in some areas, his abysmal human-rights record seems to have taken a back seat to China’s new role in the global economy. The U.S. State Department has identified 22 areas of human-rights abuses underHu Jintao , including torture, forced abortions, forced labor, detention of religious groups, government corruption, and restrictions on speech and the media. Next year, China will draw world attention when it hosts the Olympics. (Author’s comment: Never mind the human rights violations, as long as Wal-Mart and other corporations can keep those profits up by importing from China.)
5) King Abdullah – Saudi Arabia
King Abdullah has been in power in Saudi Arabia since 1995. Since the King and the Saudi royal family control the world’s largest reserves of oil, the U.S. government has not acted to oppose the repressive and intolerant actions of the Saudi regime. It is illegal for a Saudi citizen to practice a religion other than Islam, and school textbooks are anti-Christian and anti-Semitic. (Author’s comment: See, this is what oil will do for a relationship!)
6) Than Shwe –Burma (Myanmar)
In power since 1992, Than Shwe is one of the most secretive leaders in the world. Burmese citizens are still waiting on a new constitution 17 years after it was promised. Freedom of the press and political opposition are virtually non-existent in Burma. (Author’s comment: Not enough oil yet to make it worthwhile?)
Mugabe has been in power since 1980, overseeing a country which has the world’s shortest life expectancies – 37 for men and 34 for women. He allowed an election in 2002, and won by having his leading opponent arrested for treason. In recent years, Mugabe has attracted international criticism for corruption, mishandling of land reforms, economic mismanagement, and a deteriorating human rights situation.
8 ) Islam Karimov – Uzbekistan
Karimov was already the president of Uzbekistan in 1989. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Islam Karimovused old-fashioned Soviet tactics of torture, media censorship, and fake elections to hold on to his power. Although the U.S. had shunned him for his numerous human rights violations – including ordering the massacre of hundreds of his citizens – his strategic geographic location made his country an ideal location for American troops after 9/11. Criticism of the 2005Andijan killings which arose out of a trial of 23 businessmen, led to Karimov’s decision to order U.S. troops out of the country.
Qaddafi has been in power 38 years. In 1969, at the age of 27, he seized power and has been considered an enemy of the U.S for decades. He holds no official title and is referred to as”Brother Leader” and “Guide of the Revolution.” AlthoughQuaddafi appears to have moderated his actions in previous years, Libya is still a country where political prisoners disappear and women are kept in rehabilitation homes indefinitely if they have been raped or have engaged in sex outside of marriage.
When Al-Assad’s father, Hafez Al-Assad died in 2000, Bashar was elected President unopposed with apparent massive popular support. A major crisis began with the death of Lebanese Prime MinisterRafik Hariri in February 2005, which has been blamed on Syria in the media.
These are the Top 10 from Parade; however, since the world is full of dictators, I am sure there are many out there led by leaders who are cruel and inhumane in their treatment of their citizens. I always find it interesting how the government picks and chooses its friends and enemies. We supported Iran and then we didn’t support Iran – it all depends on our interests, and, frankly, I am not sure human rights has much to do with the government’s alignments.