Human rights survey hits China, Cuba, Serbia, Turkey
February 26, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department had harsh words Friday for China, Cuba, Turkey and the Yugoslav republic of Serbia, in its annual report on human rights.
"In too many countries, leaders speak of democracy, yet rig elections, suppress dissent, and shackle the press," said Harold Koh, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
In congressional testimony Friday, Koh singled out China and Cuba in particular.
"In China, the government's human rights record deteriorated sharply at the end of 1998 with a crackdown against organized political dissent," Koh said. "Dozens of political activists were detained for attempts to register a political party and three leaders were given harsh sentences in closed trials that flagrantly violated due process."
His criticism of China is noteworthy, since it comes on the eve of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's trip to Beijing this weekend. The report also criticized China for not providing a comprehensive and credible accounting of those missing or detained in connection with 1989 pro-democracy movement.
Koh criticized Cuba's continued tight domestic control as well.
"Despite the pope's visit early in 1998, the government of Fidel Castro continued to exercise control over all aspects of Cuban life and to suppress ruthlessly all forms of political dissent," he said.
In Turkey, a NATO ally, the report cited "a general recognition, including by the government, that the country's human rights performance is inadequate and needs to be brought in line."
The report criticized Turkish police and security forces for reported jail beating deaths and disappearances, and said that torture remained widespread. In southeast Turkey, where a Kurdish separatist movement remains active, emergency powers provisions have quashed the freedoms of impoverished Kurds.
In Serbia, the State Department report found fault with Serbian support for "a brutal crackdown" on civilians and separatist insurgents in Kosovo province. It also singled out Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for using the military, police, judiciary and state-controlled media to strangle dissent throughout Serbia.
The report noted improvements in Indonesia, where the State Department concluded "the government's human rights performance did improve after the resignation of President Suharto (last spring)."
"It endorsed broader press freedom, released numerous political prisoners, and opened the door for genuine political pluralism and elections that are scheduled for this spring," Koh said.
Afghanistan's Taliban fundamentalist Muslim government came in for strong words. The State Department said Afghanistan saw "perhaps the most severe abuse of women's human rights in the world" in 1998.
Afghan authorities have publicly beaten women who failed to wear all-enveloping clothing and for not being accompanied by a close male relative. The report also accused the Taliban of "devastating disregard for the physical and psychological health of women and girls," including drastically limiting access to medical services.
The State Department's human rights report has been issued annually since 1977. The first report ran only 137 pages and looked at only those countries receiving U.S. aid. This year's report is the largest ever, covering 194 countries and is more than 5,000 pages.
The report looks at four focus points in 194 countries: democracy, human rights, religious freedom and labor rights. It is designed to provide all three branches of the U.S. government with an authoritative factual basis for making decisions about international aid, diplomatic initiatives, asylum requests and other questions.
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