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Human Rights Group Criticizes US for Abuses

A new annual report by Human Rights Watch paints a bleak picture of the condition of human rights around the world. The private, New York-based organization singles out the United States for criticism, but also says human rights need to be improved by other countries, including China and Russia.

Human Rights Watch says U.S. credibility as a defender of human rights is being undermined by the Bush administration because of what the group says is the use of torture and detention without trial. The report is specifically referring to the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which currently has nearly 400 suspected terrorists. Human rights groups have charged that detainees are subject to cruel and inhuman treatment, and being held without trial. The head of the facility says the detainees who remain in custody may be terrorists and are treated legally and ethically.

Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth says the U.S. is lacking credibility as an effective champion of global human rights. "It cannot credibly combat efforts to use torture, the disappearance of suspects or the detention of suspects without trial, since those are all abuses that the United States itself has been committing."

The report says the most pressing human rights situation is in Darfur, Sudan, where violence between government-backed forces and rebel groups has left more than 200,000 people dead and two million displaced. Human Rights Watch says civilians are under constant attack and the conflict is spilling across Sudan's borders, but the United Nations has only produced many unimplemented resolutions.

The report says there are also many other challenges that need urgent attention, including the sectarian and political violence in Iraq. It says that rights in China and Russia are worsening, and that the governments of those countries "embrace tyrants" as a way to increase their influence. Beijing has responded by saying Human Rights Watch has "a prejudiced attitude" against China.

Roth says there are also ongoing human-rights problems in many other countries, some involving non-governmental organizations, or NGO's. "Totalitarian repression that persists in North Korea, Burma, Turkmenistan. Continued closed societies in places like Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Syria; a renewed crackdown on NGO's in place like Russia, Egypt, and Iran."

The report encourages the European Union to fill, what it calls, the human rights leadership void. But Human Rights Watch says the EU is not doing all that it could.