Washington (CNN)Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed the United States' opposition to torture Wednesday in an apparent attempt to rebut recent comments by Republican presidential candidates.
Kerry pushes back on Trump calls for torture
"I want to remove even a scintilla of doubt or confusion that has been caused by statements that others have made in recent weeks and months," said Kerry, without naming anyone. "The United States is opposed to the use of torture in any form, at any time, by any government or non-state actor."
Last month, GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump said he was in favor of torture because "we have to beat the savages," adding that he would seek to "broaden" U.S. laws to allow torture, including waterboarding.
His main rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has said he opposes torture, but has also argued that waterboarding -- which simulates the sensation of drowning -- should not be considered torture.
Kerry made the remarks as the State Department unveiled its annual Human Rights Report, chiding allies and foes alike for committing human rights abuses and denying political freedoms.
Two countries where the U.S. has made significant inroads over the past year, Iran and Cuba, were still taken to task for limiting political opposition and cracking down on dissidents, while Russia also came in for pointed scrutiny.
In addition, the report called out "non-state actors," including the terror groups ISIS, Boko Haram and al Shabaab, for "shocking abuses of human rights, violations of international humanitarian law, and other criminal acts."
The report, which is broken down by country, offered stark criticism of many countries long condemned by the U.S., including North Korea, where the government of Kim Jong Un "made no known attempts to prosecute officials who committed human rights abuses."
As relations between the U.S. and Russia continue to cool, the report made note of "a range of measures to suppress dissent" in that country, also slamming the government of Vladimir Putin for its continued occupation of Crimea.
And while ties between the U.S. and Iran and Cuba thawed, the countries were not spared criticism.
Just nine months after a U.S. delegation led by Kerry reached an historic nuclear deal with Iran and five world powers, the State Department's report noted "severe restrictions on civil liberties" by Tehran.
On Cuba, the report rebukes the government of Raul Castro for silencing political opposition despite the administration's re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Havana last summer.
"In January the government released 53 political prisoners after official announcements that the United States and Cuba would re-establish diplomatic relations," the report stated. "Six of these prisoners were rearrested for various activities during the course of the year and were given longer-term prison sentences."
U.S. allies were not immune from criticism in the annual report, which is mandated by Congress.
"In Turkey," the report's introduction stated, "the government has used anti-terror laws as well as a law against insulting the president to stifle legitimate political discourse and investigative journalism -- prosecuting journalists and ordinary citizens and driving opposition media outlets out of business or bringing them under state control."
And in Bahrain -- a country Kerry visited just last week -- the report cites a lack of political space and due process.