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Blockading States Face A Reality Check

Photo: Gulf Times

The leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt were reckless in conflicts against Libya and Yemen and imposed sanctions on Qatar out of nowhere last year.

According to a new report released by the independent watchdog organisation, Freedom House’s report, 71 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties, with only 35 registering gains.

The report analysed 195 countries in which 88 countries were rated ‘free’, 58 ‘partly free’ and 49 ‘not free’.

While a score of 1 denotes ‘most free’ in terms of political rights, civil liberties and freedom rating, countries with a score of 7 in any of these parameters is considered ‘least free’. For the aggregate score, 0 is ‘least free’ and 100 ‘most free’.

The blockading states have got the worst possible in terms of political rights – 7, while Egypt is just behind with a score of 6.

Among the 49 countries rated ‘not free’, Saudi Arabia featured among the 12 nations with the worst aggregate score – 7 out of 100, a drop from last year’s 10. Further, a break-up of the score shows that Saudi fared abysmally across different parameters – securing the lowest score in political rights (7), civil liberties (7) and freedom rating (7.0). The 2017 scores were the same across these parameters.

UAE also featured in the list of ‘not free’ countries, recording a lowest possible score of 7 in terms of political rights, which also represented a drop from last year’s score of 6. While the civil liberties score remained unchanged at a lowly 6, the country saw the freedom rating score fall from 6 last year to 6.5 this time.

Meanwhile, Bahrain too featured on the ‘not free’ list. In terms of the different parameters, Bahrain scored 7 in political rights, 6 in civil liberties and 6.5 in freedom rating, the same as in the 2017 report.

The report observed that “promises of reform from a powerful new crown prince in Saudi Arabia added an unexpected variable, though his nascent social and economic changes were accompanied by hundreds of arbitrary arrests and aggressive moves against potential rivals, and he showed no inclination to open the political system”.

On Egypt, it said “rather than reforming its abusive security services and enlisting support from all segments of Egyptian society, the regime continued its repression of dissent in 2017 and adopted a restrictive new law designed to choke off international funding for non-governmental organisations and provide legal cover for their arbitrary closure”.

The report also observed Yemen’s civil war which has left nearly three-quarters of the population in need of humanitarian aid. Small groups of war-weary protesters in Sanaa repeatedly turned out to demand the release of political prisoners and an international response aimed at ending the violence, it added.

“The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s ousted government continued its indiscriminate bombing campaign, while in Saudi Arabia itself, Mohamed bin Salman worked to consolidate power after replacing the previous crown prince in June. Among other rapid and opaque decisions during the year, he arbitrarily detained hundreds of princes, officials, and businessmen under the pretense of an anti-corruption campaign,” the report said.

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