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US Releases Annual Human Rights Report


The U.S. State Department has released its annual report on human rights, shining the spotlight on governments around the world it says are repressing their people while attacking champions of democracy and the rule of law. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports from the State Department.

The 2007 report says countries where power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers remain the world's most systematic violators of human rights.

In that category the report lists North Korea, Burma, Iran, Syria, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Eritrea and Sudan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says in those nations and others, aspirations of freedom and human rights common to all people are being denied.

"In too many countries champions of human rights are denounced and persecuted, vilified as traitors or targeted for repression just for insisting upon the freedoms enshrined in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights," he said.

The report names China, the host of this year's Olympic Games, as an authoritarian country undergoing economic reform, but still denying citizens basic human rights.

Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Jonathan Farrar, says the Chinese government continues to deny fundamental freedoms.

"The reports highlight that the human rights record remained poor," he said. "There were efforts to tighten controls in some areas including on religious freedom and on the Internet. The increasing difficulties of some human rights dissidents in China and in general the human rights record remained poor."

The report highlights Iraq and Afghanistan as countries where deadly insurgencies and weak governments have resulted in severe abuses of human rights.

In Russia the report says the centralization of power in the executive branch, corruption and other problems are eroding the government's accountability to its citizens.

The report singled out Pakistan as a country where human rights deteriorated.

"Indeed in 2007 the countries that captured the headlines were those that regressed in human rights and democracy," said Jonathan Farrar. "Pakistan, under the state of emergency, suspended the constitution and approximately 6,000 opposition political party workers, human rights advocates, lawyers and judges were arrested. By the end of the year the state of emergency was rescinded and most detainees released."

Secretary Rice says the human rights report was written with the confidence that no corner of the Earth is permanently condemned to tyranny.

"Change may, indeed, change will take time, but change will come," she said. "As long as citizens around the world champion the universal values of human rights there is hope and we in the United States continue to believe that it is our duty to support these courageous men and women."

The U.S. Congress requires the State Department to submit the annual report so lawmakers can evaluate the human rights record of any country being considered for financial aid.