US Annual Report Cites Human-Rights Abuses

The United States says governments around the world continue to commit severe human-rights abuses, and it names Iran, China and Belarus as countries where human-rights issues raise particular concern.

In its annual report on human rights, the U.S. State Department said Iran severely restricts its citizens' freedoms and continues to hold political prisoners rounded up during a crackdown on activists last year. The report says Iran's judiciary lacks independence and notes that fair trials, conducted in public, are few in number.

The State Department cited multiple sources for its contention that Iran carried out 312 summary executions in 2010. U.S. officials write that many of those put to death in Iran for criminal offenses such as drug trafficking were actually political dissidents.

China in 2010 intensified efforts to limit freedom of speech and control the press, according to the U.S. report, and Chinese authorities increasingly used extralegal measures against dissidents, such as forced disappearances, strict house arrest and arbitrary detention.

The U.S. government document said severe cultural and religious repression continues against China's ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region and in areas where there are significant Tibetan populations.

Turning to Belarus, the State Department said pro-democracy activists, journalists and civil society representatives there have been arbitrarily arrested, detained and imprisoned. The U.S. report noted that the judicial system in the eastern European state lacks independence, is corrupt and inefficient and subject to political interference.

The human-rights survey said North Korea has not eased severe restrictions on freedoms and systematic abuses in its extensive network of prisons and detention centers. The report notes that North Korea routinely blocks access for international organizations and human-rights monitors, making it impossible to assess the situation fully and accurately.

In Libya, torture, arbitrary arrest, official impunity and poor prison conditions are said to be continuing problems. The U.s. report says the government of Mommar Ghadhafi significantly restricts media freedoms and citizens trying to exercise their right of free expression.

The survey of conditions in 190 countries also named as human-rights violators Afghanistan, Burma, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Sudan, Ukraine and Venezuela.

The U.S. government report noted the dramatic changes this year in the Middle East, and concluded that three trends have contributed to popular uprisings in the region: The explosive growth of non-governmental advocacy groups focusing on rights issues; the dramatic growth of the Internet, mobile telephones and other new communications technologies; and the escalation of violence, persecution and discrimination against vulnerable minority groups or disempowered majorities.