Highlights of U.S. State Department Human Rights Reports

WASHINGTON, Feb 26, (AP) — The U.S. State Department released the 1999 edition of its annual Country Reports on Human rights on Friday. Here are some of the highlights:

China: Authorities broadened and intensified efforts to suppress those perceived to threaten government power or national stability. ”Citizens who sought to express openly dissenting political and religious views faced widespread repression.” In the weeks leading up to major events last year, including the 50th anniversary of founding of the People’s Republic of China, the government moved against political dissidents across the country, detaining and formally arresting scores of activists.”

Russia: Russian attacks on separatists in Chechnya included airstrikes and indiscriminate shellings of cities inhabited mainly by civilians. ”These attacks, which in turn led to house-to-house fighting in Grozny, led to the deaths of numerous civilians and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.” Credible reports had Russian military forces carrying out summary executions of civilians in Chechnya.

North Korea: Government repression is so severe that no organized opposition is known to exist. ”The government regards almost any independent activity – including listening to foreign broadcasts, writing letters and possessing ‘reactionary’ printed matter – as crimes against the state.”

Burma: The military intensified its systematic use of coercion and intimidation to restrict further freedom of association. ”Authorities undertook a sustained, systematic campaign to destroy the National League for Democracy without formally banning it.”

Iraq: The regime continued to commit widespread, serious and systematic rights abuses, summarily executing actual and perceived political opponents.

Syria: The government uses ”its vast powers to quash all organized political opposition.”

Sudan: The government continues to restrict most civil liberties, including freedom of assembly, association, religion and movement. ”Government security forces regularly tortured, beat, harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained opponents or suspected opponents of the government.”

Sierra Leone: Rebel forces committed ”numerous egregious abuses, including murder, abduction, deliberate mutilations and rape.” Pro-government militias also committed abuses, albeit on a lesser scale.

Cuba: The government of President Fidel Castro continued to suppress opposition and criticism. ”Cuban authorities routinely harass, threaten, arbitrarily arrest, detain, imprison and defame human rights advocates and members of independent professional associations.”

Iran: The government’s record remained poor, but efforts within society to make the government accountable intensified. Religious minorities, particularly Baha’is, continued to suffer repression by conservative elements of the judiciary and security forces.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire): Widespread killing of Tutsis in 1998 did not continue in 1999, but the government failed to prosecute any state officials or others in the killings.

 Source: Associated Press

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