The U.S. State Department has issued its annual report on human rights, detailing abuses and improvements around the world and stressing the link between democracy and rights.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking to journalists at the report's release, called building democracies urgent work that cannot be delayed.
The report lists countries with unaccountable rulers as among the world's most systematic rights violators, including China, North Korea, Iran and Burma.
In addition, the State Department report says Zimbabwe maintains a steady assault on basic freedoms, while Cuba's communist regime controls all aspects of its citizens' lives.
The document stresses that human rights and democracy are closely linked. It cites the Balkans as an example of how an improvement in both areas led to greater stability and security.
It praises Iraq's elections, but adds that Iraqis remained under the strain from violence. Afghanistan, Ukraine and Lebanon also were cited for making progress following elections last year.
The State Department report says that severe rights abuses were committed in 2005 by governments in the context of conflicts, such as the genocide in Darfur and the seizure of power by Nepal's king.
It also criticizes several countries for repressing media freedoms and non-governmental organizations, including Cambodia, China, Zimbabwe and Russia.