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Iraq Transition

Report cites Iraq government abuses, progress

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Justice and Rights

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's interim government replaced the human rights abuses of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein with its own offenses -- including torture, arbitrary arrests, bribery and death -- according to an annual U.S. human rights report.

The U.S. State Department's assessment, titled "Country Reports on Human Rights," examines conditions in 196 countries including Iraq, Iran, Russia, Ghana, Guatemala, China and North Korea.

In the preface to the report, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote that the nations covered range from "the stoutest defenders to the worst violators of human dignity."

Concerning Iraq, the report states that Iraq's interim leaders reversed "a long legacy of serious human rights abuses," but "serious problems remained." And it blamed a stubborn and lethal insurgency for creating harsh daily living conditions and hindering the State Department's ability to get complete information to develop its report.

"There were reports of arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions -- particularly in pretrial detention facilities -- and arbitrary arrest and detention. There remained unresolved problems relating to the large number of internally displaced persons," it reads.

"Corruption at all levels of the government remained a problem. Some aspects of the judicial system were dysfunctional, and there were reports that the judiciary was subject to external influence.

"The exercise of labor rights remained limited, largely due to violence, unemployment, and maladapted organizational structures and laws; however, with international assistance, some progress was underway at year's end."

The document, released Monday, said the violent insurgency undermined the government and civic life and promulgated a "continuing shortage of services and staples."

Also, the report notes that it was difficult for the department to verify several instances in the report because insurgent activity limited access to information.

"During the period of the report, the Government's human rights performance was handicapped by a serious insurgency in which a terrorist campaign of violence impacted every aspect of life with executions, kidnappings, torture, and intimidation waged against civilians, the government and coalition forces."

The report states that Iraq made several positive strides including holding national elections in January, establishing a Human Rights Ministry, fostering the ongoing employment of women and adding to the growth of nongovernmental organizations.

"The government's success in building an accommodating structure for the exercise of civil liberties, although burdened by the heritage of dictatorship and disregard for law, was shown clearly in the citizens' embrace of freedoms of speech and press, peaceful assembly, and association and religion. While major problems still remained, they were of a far different magnitude and nature than previously," the report states.

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