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Venezuela, Iran, Uighur Detentions in China among Issues Raised in US Rights Report


FILE - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Feb. 1, 2019.

The U.S. State Department is painting a grim picture of violations and abuses in countries that already have dismal records in its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2018.”


On Venezuela, the report cited extrajudicial killings, the stifling of free expression, and restrictions on political participation. It said the May 20, 2018 presidential vote that re-elected Nicolas Maduro was “deeply flawed,” adding that the vote was boycotted by the opposition and condemned by the international community.

The State Department report also pointed to issues including “pervasive corruption and impunity among all security forces” and in the Maduro government; “trafficking in persons; and the worst forms of child labor, which the government made minimal efforts to eliminate.”

“The situation on the ground is deteriorating. It’s so tragic. The humanitarian conditions there are just awful. You have people starving, can’t get medicine to the sick,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview in Houston.


On Iran, the report said “the government’s human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas. “

The high-profile case of Iranian attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh was featured in the report. Sotoudeh, who represents political prisoners and women that protested against the country’s compulsory hijab law, was arrested on June 13, 2018, on national security charges. She was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.

“We are outraged,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in Tuesday’s briefing, “This sentence is beyond barbaric. “

The human rights report also pointed to issues including executions for crimes without fair trials; arbitrary killings and forced disappearance; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; systematic use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment; unlawful interference with privacy; severe restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet.


On China, the State Department’s human rights report said the government significantly intensified its campaign of mass detention of members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (Xinjiang).

“Authorities were reported to have arbitrarily detained 800,000 to possibly more than two million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other Muslims in internment camps designed to erase religious and ethnic identities,” said the report.

Secretary Pompeo said China is "in a league of its own" in human rights violations.

Other issues include arbitrary detention by the Chinese government; physical attacks on and the criminal prosecution of journalists, lawyers, petitioners, and their family members; severe restrictions on religious freedom; the forcible return of asylum seekers to North Korea, where they have a well-founded fear of persecution; and official repression of the freedom of speech, religion, movement, association, and assembly in Tibet, according to the report.

Security cameras are installed above the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, Sept. 4, 2018.
Security cameras are installed above the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education center in Dabancheng, in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China, Sept. 4, 2018.

China says it is running a deradicalization program and that the camps are vocational training centers to teach people about the law and the Mandarin language. Chinese authorities said Tuesday that the camps in Xinjiang will "gradually disappear" if a time arises when "society does not need them."

Samuel Brownback, the U.S. ambassador for religious freedom, said Friday during a speech in Hong Kong that China's detentions are not proportionate to any real threat it faces from extremism.

"China is not solving a terrorist problem by forcibly moving women, children, the elderly, and the highly educated intelligentsia into mass detention centers and internment camps. Instead, they are creating one," he said.

U.S. lawmakers are pressuring the Trump administration to take stronger actions against China. The House Foreign Affairs Committee told Pompeo last week it "appears the administration has taken no meaningful action" on the matter.

Pompeo said the administration is considering sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for rights abuses against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.