State Dept. Releases Report on Human Rights

Man's inhumanity to man was documented anew Monday by the State Department as it surveyed human rights abuses last year in scores of countries and found systematic torture in Syria, serious abuses in China and the killing of civilians by government-backed militia in Sudan's troubled Darfur province (search).

Egypt, a close ally of the United States in Mideast peacemaking, was condemned for security forces torturing prisoners and for mass arrests. Iran's "poor human rights record worsened," the State Department report said.

North Korea (search), which President Bush has denounced as part of an "axis of evil," is one of the world's most repressive and brutal regimes, the report said. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people are believed to be in detention camps in remote areas, and defectors report many have died from torture, starvation and disease.

Syria's (search) human rights record is poor, the report said. Syrians do not have a right to change their government and "continuing serious abuses included the use of torture in detention, which at times resulted in death," unfair trials and arbitrary arrests.

But there were several bright spots. Terrorism fell off in post-Taliban Afghanistan, respect for human rights in Ukraine rose with the staging of free elections, and what the report said were prospects for peace in Iraq "help create momentum for the improvement of human rights practices."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's promise last weekend to hold multi-candidate elections came too late to be reflected in the report, which accused government-controlled security forces of numerous, serious human rights abuses.

Egyptians did not have the meaningful ability to change their government, the report said, noting Mubarak was serving a fourth six-year term as a result of national referenda in which he was not opposed.

China, described as an authoritarian state, denies its citizens freedom to oppose the Chinese Communist Party's political system, the report said. The government used war on terror as a pretext for cracking down on peaceful Uighur separatists and does not permit outsiders to monitor the human rights situation in the country, the report to Congress added.