Genocide, dictatorship, torture, human trafficking, and restriction of basic freedoms are among the various forms of repression listed in the U.S. State Department's annual Human Rights Report. The latest edition, covering 196 countries, was released in Washington on Wednesday. VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports.
Presentation of the report began with a statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who noted that how a country treats its citizens is a strong indication of how it will behave toward its neighbors.
"We hope that the reports will encourage governments, organizations, the media and publics to address human rights problems. We also hope that the reports will be a source of information and inspiration to the noble men and women across the globe who are working for peaceful democratic change."
Among the most widespread of human rights violations listed in the report is the abuse of minorities. Victims include Tibetans and Muslims in China, Kurds in Syria, Arabs in Israel, as well as peoples from the Caucasus in Russia.
Some of the violations catalogued in the report are of global proportions. For example, trafficking in women, which applies -- among many others -- to Turkey, Somalia, Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Australia and even Western European countries such as Germany, and the United Kingdom.
The Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Barry Lowenkron, said access to information and the ability of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to operate freely are also under assault. "I think the issue of the Internet is something that's going to be highlighted more, much more. The issue of NGOs, because we're starting to see this appear, to pop up all over the globe. So it's not a problem in Russia of NGOs, you find it in Central Asia, Caucasus, in China. You find it in terms of Súmate and Venezuela, so it's spreading."
Lowenkron highlighted Syria and Iran as two of the worst human rights abusers in the Middle East. Those abuses include torture and arbitrary executions. Cuba and Venezuela are considered among the worst in Latin America. And in Africa, the State Department says Sudan's Janjaweed continues to bear responsibility for genocide in Darfur.
Many nations are cited for denying citizens the right to change the government. This contrasts with praise for Ukraine's Orange Revolution, which is mentioned as a positive example. According to the report, Ukraine has increased accountability by police officers, and allowed greater press freedom.
The United States is not among the 196 nations covered in the report, though U.S. officials say the performance of the American government is a legitimate subject for debate.
Tom Malinowski, with the non-governmental watchdog group Human Rights Watch, says America's moral authority on human rights has diminished:
"In part because the president's democracy promotion strategy has become so closely linked in people's eyes with Iraq, and in part because the United States has not always been setting the best example in its own conduct."
The latter is a reference to the U.S. treatment of suspected enemy combatants. However, Mr. Malinowski says that the United States has institutions: independent media, courts, legislatures and non-governmental organizations such as his own, which are working to resolve any problems. The State Department says other countries would benefit from similar institutions.