Who is the world´s worst dictator?

Meet the Contenders: Dictators 11 to 20

By David Wallechinsky Published: January 22, 2006

11. Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya
Age 63. In power since 1969. Last year´s rank: 6

Qaddafi has made his peace with the outside world by renouncing his quest for weapons of mass destruction and opening his oil fields to foreign companies. But domestically he continues to operate a brutal regime. According to the U.S. Department of State, at least 10% of the population is engaged in surveillance of the other 90%. Libyan law provides for collective punishment in which the relatives, friends and even neighbors of someone found guilty of a crime can also be punished. Criticizing Qaddafi is considered a crime punishable by death.

12. King Mswati III, Swaziland
Age 37. In power since 1986. Last year´s rank: 11
Africa´s last remaining absolute monarch, Mswati III took power at the age of 18. Since then he has allowed his country to slide into extreme poverty, with 69% of the Swazi people living on less than $1 a day. Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world: almost 40%. The country has operated without a constitution for 30 years. Mswati has agreed to implement a new one in 2006, however, it bans political parties, gives Mswati the right to reject any laws passed by the legislature and grants him immunity against all possible crimes.

13. Isayas Afewerki, Eritrea
Age 59. In power since 1993. Last year´s rank: 17

A popular leader of Eritrea´s 30-year war of liberation against Ethiopia, Afewerki became its first president in 1993. Since then he has cancelled all national elections. He also suspended the constitution, shut down all privately owned media and restricted the use of cell phones because, he says, they are a threat to national security. He recently expelled all American and European members of the United Nations peacekeeping force that is trying to stop the outbreak of a border war with neighboring Ethiopia.

14. Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus
Age 51. In power since 1994. Last year´s rank: 12

Europe´s last dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenko was elected Belarus´ first president after the break-up of the Soviet Union. Since then he has rewritten the constitution to allow him to appoint all 110 members of the upper house of the legislature, and he has harassed his opponents, sometimes having them arrested on live television. He also has mandated a return to Communist-style "mutual surveillance," encouraging workers to use "trouble telephones" to inform on one another. It is against the law to criticize him.

15. Fidel Castro, Cuba
Age 79. In power since 1959. Last year´s rank: 13

Fidel Castro moved into his 47th year as the leader of Cuba, continuing his record as the longest-reigning dictator in the world. He seems to be telling his people that two generations have passed and no one in Cuba is worthy of taking his place. Cuba had one of the worst scores on Reporters Without Borders´ international index of press freedom.

16. Bashar al-Assad, Syria
Age 40. In power since 2000. Last year´s rank: 14

A former ophthamology student, in 2000 Bashar inherited power from his father, who had ruled Syria for 29 years. Recently the Syrian government has received international condemnation for its presumed involvement in the assassination of the ex-prime minister of neighboring Lebanon. In Syria itself, "emergency rule" has been in effect since 1963. Amnesty International has documented 38 different types of torture that have been used in Syria in recent years.

17. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan
Age 62. In power since 1999. Last year´s rank: 7

General Pervez Musharraf seized power in a military coup that overthrew an elected government. He appointed himself president of Pakistan in 2001 and then attempted to legitimize his rule by staging an election in 2002. However, the election did not come close to meeting international standards. Musharraf agreed to step down as head of the military but then changed his mind, claiming that the nation needed to unify its political and military elements and that he could provide this unity. He justified his decision by stating, "I think the country is more important than democracy." Prior to September 11, 2001, Musharraf was an ardent supporter of Afghanistan´s Taliban regime.

18. Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia
Age 50. In power since 1995. Last year´s rank: unranked

Following a disputed election in May 2005, Zenawi´s forces shot to death several dozen unarmed demonstrators and detained more than 10,000 political opponents. Zenawi had agreed to a mediated solution to his border dispute with Eritrea. But when the United Nations boundary commission ruled against him, he refused to comply with its decision.

19. Boungnang Vorachith, Laos
Age 68. In power since 2001. Last year´s rank: 20

Laos is run by the communist Lao People´s Revolutionary Party. Freedom of expression, assembly and religion are almost nonexistent. Three quarters of Laotians live on less than $2 a day.

20. Tran Duc Luong, Vietnam
Age 68. In power since 1997. Last year´s rank: 19

A geology technician, Luong oversees a classic communist regime that forbids public criticism of the Communist Party, strictly controls all media and heavily censors the Internet. Political trials are closed to the public and 29 different crimes are punishable by the death penalty-including fraud, corruption and drug trafficking. In November, 2005, the U.S. State Department´s International Religious Freedom Report designated Vietnam as one of eight "countries of particular concern."