(VOA Editorial)  (450)

(Following is an editorial, broadcast by the Voice of America January 4,

reflecting American ideals and institutions.)

For many years, international human rights groups have borne witness to

the suppression of freedom in the world's many tyrannies.  One of the

oldest of these groups is Freedom House, founded more than a half century

ago to warn of the danger posed by such totalitarian regimes as Nazi

Germany and later the Soviet Union.  Since 1955, Freedom House has been

issuing annual reports on the state of freedom around the world.

Recently, Freedom House issued its "Comparative Survey of Freedom" for 1993.

 The report examines civil and political rights in 186 countries and 66

territories.  The report says that 69 percent of the world's more than

5,000 million people now live in societies considered by Freedom House to

be "free" or at least "partly free."  This is the highest percentage since

the survey was begun.  The report also says that at least 34 countries have

adopted democracy over the past three years, and several others may become

democratic this year.

Although there is much good news in the Freedom House report, there is also

much to be concerned about.  Freedom House still considers 38 countries to

be "not free."  These countries include China, where more than a fifth of

the world's people remain subject to the rule of a communist regime.  Other

countries considered by Freedom House to be especially repressive include

North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba, which are also ruled by communists, as well

as Burma, Haiti, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Syria.

In his introduction to the report, Freedom House executive director, Bruce

McColm, points to a disquieting development which is illustrated by the

horrible killing and other human rights abuses in such places as Bosnia and

Somalia.  McColm says that ethnic strife and brutal civil wars could lead

to a new cycle of authoritarianism if the community of democracies does not

respond adequately to the challenge.

Another major challenge is the need to consolidate democratic gains around

the world.  The Freedom House report notes that 99 countries are now formal

democracies, but 23 of them are rated only "partly free."  In many of these

countries, substantial human rights violations continue to occur every day.

 Freedom House stresses that it is imperative for the established

democracies to continue to help the newer democracies in such tasks as

institutionalizing the rule of law and reforming armed forces and

intelligence agencies so that they don't violate human rights.  "Now that

the democratic idea has gained global legitimacy," says McColm, "it is time

to assist in the construction of democratic societies."