PARADEâs Annual List Of...The Worldâs 10 Worst Dictators On The Web By David Wallechinsky Published: January 22, 2006 A âdictatorâ is a head of state who exercises arbitrary authority over the lives of his citizens and who cannot be removed from power through legal means. The worst commit terrible human-rights abuses. This present list draws in part on reports by global human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International. While the three worst from 2005 have retained their places, two on last yearâs list (Muammar al-Qaddafi of Libya and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan) have slipped out of the Top 10ânot because their conduct has improved but because other dictators have gotten worse. 1) Omar al-Bashir, Sudan. Age 62. In power since 1989. Last yearâs rank: 1 Since February 2003, Bashirâs campaign of ethnic and religious persecution has killed at least 180,000 civilians in Darfur in western Sudan and driven 2 million people from their homes. The good news is that Bashirâs army and the Janjaweed militia that he supports have all but stopped burning down villages in Darfur. The bad news is why theyâve stopped: There are few villages left to burn. The attacks now are aimed at refugee camps. While the media have called these actions âa humanitarian tragedy,â Bashir himself has escaped major condemnation. In 2005, Bashir signed a peace agreement with the largest rebel group in non-Islamic southern Sudan and allowed its leader, John Garang, to become the nationâs vice president. But Garang died in July in a helicopter crash, and Bashirâs troops still occupy the south. 2) Kim Jong-il, North Korea. Age 63. In power since 1994. Last yearâs rank: 2 While the outside world focuses on Kim Jong-ilâs nuclear weapons program, domestically he runs the worldâs most tightly controlled society. North Korea continues to rank last in the index of press freedom compiled by Reporters Without Borders, and for the 34th straight year it earned the worst possible score on political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House. An estimated 250,000 people are confined in âreeducation camps.â Malnourishment is widespread: According to the United Nations World Food Program, the average 7-year-old boy in North Korea is almost 8 inches shorter than a South Korean boy the same age and more than 20 pounds lighter. 3) Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar). Age 72. In power since 1992. Last yearâs rank: 3 In November 2005, without warning, Than Shwe moved his entire government from Rangoon (Yangon), the capital for the last 120 years, to Pyinmana, a remote area 245 miles away. Civil servants were given two daysâ notice and are forbidden from resigning. Burma leads the world in the use of children as soldiers, and the regime is notorious for using forced labor on construction projects and as porters for the army in war zones. The long-standing house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and Than Shweâs most feared opponent, recently was extended for six months. Just to drive near her heavily guarded home is to risk arrest. 4) Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe. Age 81. In power since 1980. Last yearâs rank: 9 Life in Zimbabwe has gone from bad to worse: It has the worldâs highest inflation rate, 80% unemployment and an HIV/AIDS rate of more than 20%. Life expectancy has declined since 1988 from 62 to 38 years. Farming has collapsed since 2000, when Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, giving most of them to political allies with no background in agriculture. In 2005, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina (Clean the Filth), the forcible eviction of some 700,000 people from their homes or businessesââto restore order and sanity,â says the government. But locals say the reason was to forestall demonstrations as the economy deteriorates. 5) Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan. Age 67. In power since 1990. Last yearâs rank: 15 Until 2005, the worst excesses of Karimovâs regime had taken place in the torture rooms of his prisons. But on May 13, he ordered a mass killing that could not be concealed. In the city of Andijan, 23 businessmen, held in prison and awaiting a verdict, were freed by their supporters, who then held an open meeting in the town square. An estimated 10,000 people gathered, expecting government officials to come and listen to their grievances. Instead, Karimov sent the army, which massacred hundreds of men, women and children. A 2003 law made Karimov and all members of his family immune from prosecution forever. 6) Hu Jintao, China. Age 63. In power since 2002. Last yearâs rank: 4 Although some Chinese have taken advantage of economic liberalization to become rich, up to 150 million Chinese live on $1 a day or less in this nation with no minimum wage. Between 250,000 and 300,000 political dissidents are held in âreeducation-through-laborâ camps without trial. Less than 5% of criminal trials include witnesses, and the conviction rate is 99.7%. There are no privately owned TV or radio stations. The government opens and censors mail and monitors phone calls, faxes, e-mails and text messages. In preparation for the 2008 Olympics, at least 400,000 residents of Beijing have been forcibly evicted from their homes. 7) King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia. Age 82. In power since 1995. Last yearâs rank: 5 Although Abdullah did not become king until 2005, he has ruled Saudi Arabia since his half-brother, Fahd, suffered a stroke 10 years earlier. In Saudi Arabia, phone calls are recorded and mobile phones with cameras are banned. It is illegal for public employees âto engage in dialogue with local and foreign media.â By law, all Saudi citizens must be Muslims. According to Amnesty International, police in Saudi Arabia routinely use torture to extract âconfessions.â Saudi women may not appear in public with a man who isnât a relative, must cover their bodies and faces in public and may not drive. The strict suppression of women is not voluntary, and Saudi women who would like to live a freer life are not allowed to do so. 8 Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan. Age 65. In power since 1990. Last yearâs rank: 8 Niyazov has created the worldâs most pervasive personality cult, and criticism of any of his policies is considered treason. The latest examples of his government-by-whim include bans on car radios, lip-synching and playing recorded music on TV or at weddings. Niyazov also has closed all national parks and shut down rural libraries. He launched an attack on his nationâs health-care system, firing 15,000 health-care workers and replacing most of them with untrained military conscripts. He announced the closing of all hospitals outside the capital and ordered Turkmenistanâs physicians to give up the Hippocratic Oath and to swear allegiance to him instead. 9) Seyed Ali Khamaneâi, Iran. Age 66. In power since 1989. Last yearâs rank: 18 Over the past four years, the rulers of Iran have undone the reforms that were emerging in the nation. The hardliners completed this reversal by winning the parliamentary elections in 2004 âafter disqualifying 44% of the candidatesâand with the presidential election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005. Ultimately, however, the country is run by the 12-man Guardian Council, overseen by the Ayatollah Khamaneâi, which has the right to veto any law that the elected government passes. Khamaneâi has shut down the free press, tortured journalists and ordered the execution of homosexual males. 10) Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea. Age 63. In power since 1979. Last yearâs rank: 10 Obiang took power in this tiny West African nation by overthrowing his uncle more than 25 years ago. According to a United Nations inspector, torture âis the normal means of investigationâ in Equatorial Guinea. There is no freedom of speech, and there are no bookstores or newsstands. The one private radio station is owned by Obiangâs son. Since major oil reserves were discovered in Equatorial Guinea in 1995, Obiang has deposited more than $700 million into special accounts in U.S. banks. Meanwhile, most of his people live on less than $1 a day. Opinions People!!