Worst of the Worst 2011: The World's Most Repressive Societies

Read the full report here.

Freedom House has prepared this special report entitled Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies, as a companion to its annual survey on the state of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World. The special report provides summary country reports, tables, and graphical information on the countries that receive the lowest combined ratings for political rights and civil liberties in Freedom in the World, and whose citizens endure systematic and pervasive human rights violations.

The purpose of this report is to focus the attention of those who are working to advance respect for fundamental human rights around the world, as well as those who are actively engaged in suppressing such rights. The report serves a reminder that over 1.6 billion people—more than 24 percent of the world’s population—suffer every day from the basic indignities of not being able to express their thoughts and opinions, of not having a say in who governs them and how the wealth of their land and labor is spent, and of being unable to obtain justice for crimes perpetrated against them.

In many of these countries, individuals are severely restricted in making personal choices about where to live, work, and travel. Even the freedom to practice, or not practice, a particular religious faith is often limited or becomes a cause for harassment, imprisonment, or loss of life. Hundreds of thousands of human beings in these countries languish every day in prisons or labor camps—generally in subhuman conditions and subject to physical or mental abuse—purely for their political or religious beliefs. This report seeks to highlight their plight and serves as a call to the world’s governments, policymakers, human rights organizations, and democracy advocates to speak out and use whatever resources they can bring to bear to improve respect for the most basic human rights in these countries. In particular, the report is designed to direct the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to states and territories that deserve investigation and condemnation for their widespread violations.

Worst of the Worst

Included in this year’s report are nine countries designated as the Worst of the Worst: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Also included is one territory, Tibet, whose inhabitants suffer similarly intense repression. All 10 received Freedom in the World’s lowest ratings: 7 for political rights and 7 for civil liberties (based on a 1 to 7 scale, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free). Within these entities, state control over daily life is pervasive, independent organizations and political opposition are banned or suppressed, and fear of retribution for independent thought and action is ubiquitous.

On the Threshold

The report includes eight additional countries whose ratings fall just short of the bottom of Freedom House’s ratings scale: Belarus, Chad, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Laos, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Two territories, South Ossetia and Western Sahara, also fall into this group. All 10—which received ratings of 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties—offer very limited scope for private discussion, while severely suppressing opposition political activity, impeding independent organizing, and censoring or punishing criticism of the state.

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