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Amnesty Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Sri Lanka, Iran and Congo

In the latest edition of its magazine, the human rights group Amnesty International focuses attention on the status of human rights in three countries: Iran, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sri Lanka. VOA's Catherine Maddux reports.

Amnesty International devotes the cover of the winter edition of its magazine to the decades-long conflict in Sri Lanka and its impact on civilians. Other articles in international rights groups' magazine tell the story of rights abuses in Iran and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Amnesty says this year alone, more than 2,000 people -- mostly civilians -- have been killed in fighting between Sri Lankan government forces and ethnic Tamil Tiger rebels. Another 200,000 have been displaced.

Mona Dave from Amnesty's Government Relations office says the conflict in Sri Lanka has been marked by years of human rights violations committed by the government, Tamil Tiger rebels - known as the LTTE - and other armed groups.

She says civilians often take the brunt of the abuses.

"Neither the government forces nor the LTTE have taken adequate precautions to protect civilian lives," she said.

"Political killings and abductions have been on the rise and cases of disappearance have increased. And child recruitment continues to be a large problem in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, Amnesty International is concerned about reports of food shortages and other provisions in the north and east of Sri Lanka," she added.

Dave said Amnesty is calling on the Sri Lankan government to establish a strong international monitoring operation with powers to investigate abuses as they occur.

On Iran, Zahir Janmohamed, also from Amnesty's government relation's office, says the rhetoric between the United States and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad regarding his country's nuclear program has overshadowed human rights issues within Iran.

Janmohamed says abuses against minorities, women, and reform-minded politicians have worsened since last year's elections.

He said, "In a report launched on February 20th, 2006, Amnesty International reported an intensification of repression within the first six months after President Ahmadinejad took office, including the frequent use of the death penalty and torture, persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and limitation on freedom of speech."

Amnesty says in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recent democratic elections - the first since independence 46 years ago - may have brought hope but severe human rights abuses continue, particularly against women.

Lynn Fredriksson is Amnesty's advocacy director for Africa.

She said, "Across the country, particularly in the eastern Congo, armed groups systematically used sexual violence against women, abduct and re-recruit child soldiers and attack and intimidate reporters and human rights defenders in urban and rural areas alike."

"In fact, without continuing support for the U.N. mission in the Congo, MONUC, armed violence against civilians would re-escalate," she continued.

She adds that Amnesty is waiting for Congo's newly elected president, Joseph Kabila, to show he will respect the human rights of his citizens.