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Thu, 6 Feb 1997 23:23:52 GMT

[]) by tao.ca (8.8.4/8.7.3) with ESMTP id VAA14333 for <a-infos@tao.ca>; Wed, 5 Feb 1997 21:27:59 GMT Received: from [] (voyager30.lglobal.com []) by presence.lglobal.com (8.8.5/8.6.12) with ESMTP id RAA11976 for <a-infos@tao.ca>; Wed, 5 Feb 1997 17:17:50 -0500 (EST) X-Sender: josh@lglobal.com (Unverified) Message-Id: <l03010d0eaf1eab707fe0@[]> Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 16:34:35 -0500 To: a-infos@tao.ca From: Josh Hehner <josh@tao.ca> Subject: (en) U.S. State Dept. reports on Human Rights Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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WASHINGTON (IPS) -- In its much-anticipated annual human rights report, the U.S. State Department has singled out the governments of China, Nigeria, Cuba, and Burma as among the worst abusers during 1996.

It also scored the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for its exercise of "absolute dictatorial authority" and cited the governments of Iran, Syria, and Libya as responsible for the "systematic denial of their citizens' basic human rights."

The report, which runs well over 1,200 pages, argues that the "democratic revolution" which began with the end of the Cold War, is "as yet unfinished," particularly in Russia -- where the human rights picture is described as "mixed" -- and other former Soviet states.

In releasing the report, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright took a swipe at those, including some Asian leaders, who argue that economic progress is hindered by respect for human rights. "We see that as an excuse, not a reason, for repressing political opposition," she said.

She also announced that Washington will be paying increasing attention to religious persecution around the globe, naming Sudan, Vietnam, Iran, and China as major violators.

The report, which covers 193 countries, is used by Congress as a guide for decisions on foreign aid, military sales, and trade preferences. In the 19 years since the report was first published, it has become the most voluminous, and, in most cases, the most authoritative country-by-country analysis of how human rights, especially political and civil rights, are being observed. Much of the information appearing in it is based on reports by non-governmental organization (NGOs), as well as U.S. officials posted abroad.

The State Department claims that a "broad consensus has been, and is, steadily emerging against such fundamental abuses of human beings as genocide, extrajudicial killings, torture, enslavement, sexual violence, and forced separation of families," among other rights.

This consensus is evidenced, according to the report, by the steady growth in "new institutions of justice (and) accountability," including truth commissions, regional commissions, and such quasi-international human rights bodies as the Commission on Human Rights for Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the mushrooming of human rights NGOs around the world, which the State Department calls "one of the most extraordinary political developments in modern history."

Despite these advances, the report stresses "the yawning gap between the possibilities that these positive developments seem to present and the realities of a world in which there often seem to be more conflicts and human rights abuses than ever."

In this connection, the State Department singles out "authoritarian repression" in some of the world's largest and most influential countries.

Despite the Clinton administration's policy of "comprehensive engagement" with Beijing, the report names China first and foremost, noting that "all public dissent against party and government was effectively silenced by intimidation, exile, or the imposition of prison terms, administrative detention, or house arrest."

"No dissidents were known to be active at year's end," according to the report, which cites "torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions and arbitrary and lengthy incommunicado detention," among common abuses and "restrictive measures" which could threaten Hong Kong's civil liberties after the British colony reverts to Chinese sovereignty in July, 1997.

The overview refers to the 1996 human rights performance of the military junta headed by Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria as "dismal." The regime, it says, "regularly relied" on arbitrary arrests and wide-scale harassment against its critics, while security forces were responsible for killings, torture and beatings.

Human rights conditions in Cuba, described by the report as a "totalitarian state," deteriorated in 1996, according to the report. North Korea, with Washington has tried to engage over the past two years, is also described as "totalitarian."

"Rolling repression" in Burma escalated during the year, according to the report, despite the formal release from house arrest of opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Indonesia is described as "strongly authoritarian." The crackdown against NGOs, trade unions, and the democratic opposition which began last July are assailed in the report, while the situation in Irian Jaya and East Timor is described as "particularly harsh."

As for "countries in transition," the reports highlights presidential elections and the end of the war in Chechnya as bright spots in an otherwise shaky year in Russia, as well as "a year of comparative peace" in Bosnia, resulting from the 1995 Dayton Accords. At the same time, it notes "serious backsliding" in Belarus, as well as setbacks in all of the former Soviet republics in Central Asia, Albania, and Armenia.

In the Middle East area, the peace process between Israel and the Palestine Authority was hurt badly by violence early in the year, with negative effects on human rights, especially in the Palestinian territories. In Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria, deadly attacks by "terrorist groups" are cited, as are serious abuses carried out by the three governments' security forces.

On the brighter side, the report singles out advances in Guatemala, where a 36-year civil war came to a formal end, and in Haiti for praise. It also cited the work of the Truth Commission in South Africa and the returns of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Rwanda.

In focusing on freedom of religion, the report noted that intolerance, persecution and exploitation of religious differences had become a "disturbing aspect of the post-Cold War world." In the past year, China intensified its policy of severely restricting and bringing under official control all religious groups. Buddhists and Christians face similar problems in Vietnam, it said.

Non-Muslims are prohibited from public worship in Saudi Arabia, while Christians face discrimination and even persecution in a number of other predominantly Islamic countries, including Iraq, Pakistan and Sudan.

The report also cites advances made by women's NGOs since the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. Despite specific progress in reducing discrimination in countries like Namibia, Ecuador, and the Philippines, however, the report pointed to serious setbacks in Afghanistan since the rise to power of the Taliban militia and the persistence of rape, female genital mutilation, and other forms of violence against women in both industrialized and developing countries as continuing cause for concern.

On children's rights, the report documents the conscription of up to a quarter million children in government and rebel armies in Cambodia, Liberia, Peru, Uganda, Angola, and Sudan, as well as the plight of "street children" in Latin America and elsewhere.

It notes that international attention on child labor intensified in 1996 in part due to the pressure of consumer groups worldwide.

By Jim Lobe =A91997 IPS/GIN


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