The State Department hailed on Wednesday human rights gains in Iraq and Afghanistan but said there was “backsliding” in China on key rights issues and electoral manipulation by authorities in Russia.
“We saw many developments covering the whole range from the dramatically uplifting to the disappointing,” the State Department said in its annual report on the state of human rights worldwide. The report covers developments in 2003.
The report said the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in April “ended years of grave human rights violations by Saddam Hussein’s regime.” It also hailed the approval of a “moderate constitution” in Afghanistan, part of “dramatic improvements” in democracy and human rights since the Taliban militia was deposed in late 2001.
China, Russia singled out
On China, the report said arrests of democracy activists and others who defied the authorities dashed hopes for a continuation of the “unprecedented” progress achieved in 2002.
On Russia, the study said presidential polls in Chechnya in October and parliamentary elections in December failed to meet international standards.
It said the Russian media were biased in favor of government candidates.
The report comes against a background of growing Bush administration concern over an increase in Kremlin authority at the expense of other branches of government.
On other countries, the report said:
- There were “serious human rights abuses” committed by Israeli security forces against Palestinian detainees. These units used excessive force, including the shelling, bombing and raiding of Palestinian civilian areas. But Palestinian security services and the FATAH faction of the PLO participated with civilian and terrorist groups in violent attacks against Israelis, both military and civilian.
- North Korea “is one of the world’s most militarized states.” Abuses included “instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention, and denial of due process.”
- The Iranian government’s poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit numerous, serious abuses. “Continuing serious abuses included: summary executions, disappearances, torture and other degrading treatment.”
- In Saudi Arabia, the government’s rights record remained poor, although there were positive improvements in a few areas. “There were credible reports that security forces continued to torture and abuse detainees and prisoners.”
- Cuba’s poor human rights record worsened. In March, the government arrested 75 human rights activists, independent journalists, and opposition political figures on various charges, including aiding a foreign power and violating national security laws.