The U.S. report card on the world

SUN JOURNAL

March 06, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The State Department issued its first report on human rights in 1977, scrutinizing 82 countries that received U.S. aid.

Monday, it published its 2001 report, which has grown to include 195 countries - not only those that receive aid but all those that belong to the United Nations.

Some of those countries getting report cards think the United States has no right to appoint itself the world's principal. And there are critics enough who accuse the U.S. government of hypocrisy because it is courting allies among the many countries it assails for human rights abuses.

Still, the 6,000-page document, compiled using observations from U.S. diplomats and human rights organizations around the world, offers compelling reading.

A very few excerpts are offered here. To see the full report, go to www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001.

Saudi Arabia

There were credible reports that the authorities abused detainees, both citizens and foreigners. Ministry of Interior officials are responsible for most incidents of abuse of prisoners, including beatings, whippings, sleep deprivation, and at least three cases of drugging of foreign prisoners.

In addition there were allegations of torture, including allegations of beatings with sticks, suspension from bars by handcuffs, and threats against family members. Torture and abuse are used to obtain required confessions from prisoners. Punishments [for violations of law] include flogging, amputation, and execution by beheading, stoning, or firing squad.

Women of many nationalities were detained for actions such as riding in a taxi with a man who was not their relative, appearing with their heads uncovered in shopping malls, and eating in restaurants with males who were not their relatives. Many such prisoners were held for days, sometimes weeks, without officials notifying their families or, in the case of foreigners, their embassies.

The Government continued to detain Christians, at times for holding services and at times apparently arbitrarily.

A woman's testimony does not carry the same weight as that of a man. In a Sharia court, the testimony of one man equals that of two women. The Government restricts the travel of Saudi women. They are not allowed to drive inside the country and are dependent upon males for any transportation. Likewise, they must obtain written permission from their closest male relative before the authorities allow them to travel inside the country or to travel abroad.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights. The Government's human rights record remained very poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses.

Security force mistreatment resulted in the deaths of several citizens in custody. Police and security forces tortured, beat, and harassed persons. Prison conditions were poor, and pretrial detention can be prolonged.

The security forces arbitrarily arrested and detained persons, on false charges, particularly Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies, frequently planting narcotics, weapons, or banned literature on them. Human rights groups estimated that the number of persons in detention for political or religious reasons and for terrorism, primarily attendees of unofficial mosques and members of Islamist political groups, but also members of the secular opposition and human rights activists, was approximately 7,500.

Russia

Although the Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens in some areas, serious problems remain in many areas. Its record was poor regarding the independence and freedom of the media. Its record was poor in Chechnya, where the federal security forces demonstrated little respect for basic human rights and there were credible reports of serious violations, including numerous reports of extrajudicial killings by both the Government and Chechen fighters.

Hazing in the armed forces resulted in a number of deaths. There were reports of government involvement in politically motivated disappearances in Chechnya. There were credible reports that law enforcement personnel regularly tortured, beat, and otherwise abused detainees and suspects. Arbitrary arrest and detention and police corruption remained problems.

Existing laws on military courts, military service, and the rights of service members often contradict the Constitution, federal laws, and presidential decrees, raising arbitrary judgments of unit commanders over the rule of law.

A series of so-called espionage cases continued ... and raised concerns regarding the lack of due process and the influence of security services in court cases.

In February a mass grave containing approximately 50 bodies, including the bodies of several women, was discovered near the federal military base in Khankala [in Chechnya]. Some of the bodies showed that the victims had been shot in the back of the head and had their hands bound. Two of the corpses had ears cut off.

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