US condemns China, Iran, Russia and North Korea in human rights reports

The Trump administration has lashed out at China, Iran, Russia and North Korea for being "forces of instability" because of human rights abuses.

In its annual global human rights reports, the State Department singled out the four countries for serious rights violations, including restricting freedoms of speech and assembly and allowing or committing violence against religious, ethnic and other minority groups.

It said that countries that undermine the fundamental dignity of people are "morally reprehensible" and harm US interests.

"The governments of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea, for example, violate the human rights of those within their borders on a daily basis and are forces of instability as a result," acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said in an introduction to the reports.

He said the US aims to lead by example and promotes good governance, anti-corruption efforts and the rule of law.

In addition to harshly criticising those countries, the reports, which cover 2017 and are the first entirely produced by the Trump administration, replace sections on "reproductive rights" with one titled "coercion in population control".

The shift underscores the Trump administration's anti-abortion position that has already manifested itself in changed funding for international health programmes and has been criticised by women's health advocates.

Traditional US adversaries are hit hardest in the report. The entries for China, Iran, Russia and North Korea outline a litany of abuses blamed on their governments, which are also accused of failing to hold human rights violators accountable for their actions:

China

The report said Beijing is responsible for arbitrary detentions, executions without due process and coerced confessions of prisoners as well as forced disappearances and "significant restrictions" on freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, religion, and movement.

In the "coercion in population control" section, the report says that China enforces "a coercive birth-limitation policy that in some cases included sterilisation or abortions. In its first year in office, the Trump administration, as previous Republican administrations have done, pulled funding from the UN Population Fund, largely because of its work in China. The fund denies that it promotes abortion.

"China continues to spread the worst features of its authoritarian system," Mr Sullivan said.

Iran

The theocratic Shiite government in Iran is responsible for executing "a high number" of prisoners for crimes that do not merit the death penalty, the report said, along with torture, jailing of dissidents, severe curbs on journalists, gay people and religious minorities.

It also accused Iran of taking few steps to investigate, prosecute or punish any officials who committed the abuses, citing a widespread pattern of impunity for offenders.

In addition, it said that through its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's government and Iraqi Shia militias, Iran "materially contributed" to rights abuses in Syria and Iraq.

Russia

Moscow was lambasted in the report for allowing a "climate of impunity" for human rights abuses and doing little to punish officials who violate basic rights.

The report laments Russia's "authoritarian political system dominated by President Vladimir Putin," in contrast with Mr Trump's reluctance to criticise Mr Putin or the Kremlin directly.

The list of alleged transgressions by Russia is long.

The report alleged that Russia allows "systematic" torture that sometimes leads to death, along with extrajudicial killings of gay people in Chechnya, which prompted US sanctions late last year under a human rights law.

Russia's "lack of judicial independence," crackdowns on journalists and political dissidents, and censorship on the internet and of foreign organisations was also sharply criticized.

Vladimir Putin.

North Korea

Ahead of an anticipated historic meeting in the coming weeks between Mr Trump and leader Kim Jong Un, the report accused North Korea of "egregious human rights violations" in nearly all of the categories included in the report.

Forced labour, torture, coerced abortion and arbitrary arrests are all noted in the report, which also criticises North Korea for extrajudicial killings, rigid controls over citizens' private lives and the use of political prison camps.

The report says that "impunity" for those offences continues to be a problem in North Korea.

- PA


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