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State Department Releases Human Rights Report


The State Department has issued its annual report on human rights practices around the world. The massive document covers nearly 200 countries and territories and includes criticism of both adversaries and friends of the United States, including some new-found allies in the war against terrorism.

The Bush administration has gotten critical help in its campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan from neighboring countries including Pakistan and Uzbekistan.

But it did not exempt them from criticism in the human rights report and administration officials pledged to continue pressing them for rights improvements even as the anti-terror drive continues.

Introducing the report at a news conference, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States welcomes the help of any country that is genuinely prepared to work with it to eradicate terrorism. But he said it "will not relax" its commitment to advance human rights and democracy, which he suggested are the ultimate answer to the problem.

Secretary Powell said, "Freedom fights terrorism, instability and conflict. Time and again, experience has shown that countries which demonstrate high degrees of respect for human rights are also the most secure and the most successful. Indeed respect for human rights is essential to lasting peace and sustained economic growth--goals which Americans share with people all over the world."

The report notes some improvement in rights conditions in Pakistan and praises the government's stated commitment to restore democracy. But it says Pakistani police have engaged in extra-judicial killings and abuse of citizens and that security forces in Uzbekistan have arbitrarily arrested and detained persons on false charges, especially Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies.

The report criticizes Russia of serious human rights violations in Chechnya and says religious persecution increased in China last year, against, among others, Tibetans and underground Christian factions.

It also says Chinese authorities used the war on terrorism as a pretext to justify a crackdown on Muslim Uighur activists in the western part of the country.

The State Department's chief human rights official, Assistant Secretary Lorne Craner, said the United States rejects the depiction of the Uighurs as terrorists and has made its views clear to authorities in Beijing. Mr. Craner said, "They have chosen to label all of those who advocate greater freedom in that area, near as I can tell, as terrorists. And we don't think that's correct, and we have told them that we that we don't think that's correct. And that just as we say in other countries: where people are advocating greater freedoms and greater civil liberties that does not make them terrorists. And that we don't subscribe to their notion."

The report offers a harsh assessment of rights conditions all three countries listed by President Bush in January as an "axis of evil" - Iraq, Iran and North Korea.

It says the Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad killed and tortured political opponents. Its criticism of Iran was less severe but it nonetheless spoke of "systematic" abuses by security forces.

North Korea's secretive government was said to consider most international norms of human rights, especially individual liberty, as "alien and subversive" to the goals of the state and party.

Israel, the closest U.S. ally in the Middle East, was criticized for excessive use of force in its handling of the Palestinian uprising, while Palestinian Authority's rights performance was again said to be "poor."

Required by an act of Congress, the report was State Department's 26th annual rights assessment and the first compiled entirely by the Bush administration.

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