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US Rights Report Criticizes Russia, Belarus; Notes Improvements in Balkans


The U.S. State Department's human rights report for 2006 criticizes Russia for new restrictions on non-governmental organizations, and says NGO laws in neighboring Belarus make it difficult for foreign relief organizations to operate.

The report, released Tuesday, calls new regulations for NGOs in Russia "extensive and onerous." In comments to reporters, Under Secretary of State Barry Lowenkron said Russian enforcement officers are using "vague and subjective" criteria to regulate foreign relief workers.

The report also notes contract-style killings of reformers and wide human rights violations in Chechnya.

Citing widespread government infringement on rights in Belarus, Lowenkron told reporters there is "nothing good to say" about human rights in that country.

The U.S. report says Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia generally respected human rights in 2006. However, it also notes cases of police and judicial abuse in Bulgaria and Croatia, as well as Belgrade's failure to cooperate with war crimes prosecutors in the hunt for fugitives.

Bosnia-Herzegovina's human rights record received an overall poor rating, with the report singling out government "harassment and intimidation" of journalists and the persecution of religious minorities. But the report also cites fewer deaths from unexploded land mines from the Balkan war of the 1990s, and fewer reports of physical abuse by police.

In Azerbaijan, the report cites serious problems, including deaths from landmines, physical abuse by police, overcrowded prisons, improper influence on the judiciary, and the harassment of journalists.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.