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Report: Human Rights Defenders Face Abuse

A new report says there were hundreds of violations committed last year against defenders of human rights in 90 countries around the world.

The report by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Paris criticizes dozens of countries around the world for a variety of human rights and freedom of expression abuses.

That includes Belarus, where President Aleksandr Lukashenko's recent election victory has been discredited by the United States and European Union. Among other abuses, the report faults a new law in Belarus curbing the activity of non-official human rights associations.

The Observatory also noted new curbs on freedom of expression in Russia, Uzbekistan, and Sudan last year. And the Observatory's program director, Catherine Francois, ticks off still other countries where those defending human rights face new threats.

"There has been some deterioration of the human rights situation of human-rights defenders in some countries," she said. "For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Colombia, in the Philippines and Nepal."

The report is unusual in that it focuses particularly on human rights defenders, rather than human rights abuses as a whole. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders is a group of non-government organizations from 140 countries.

Overall, the report says more than 100 assassinations or assassination attempts targeting human rights defenders took place last year. In addition, 2005 witnessed nearly 100 cases of ill treatment or torture, 56 physical attacks, and more than 140 death threats.

But Francois also says there is a growing international recognition of the important role played by human rights defenders, and new mechanisms to protect them.

"It is not sufficient of course, because human rights defenders continue to be repressed on the ground, because of their work and their fight on the ground," she added. "But this is very important, and I think this is a very successful trend."

The new report is jointly sponsored by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the World Organization Against Torture, in Geneva.