U.S. Takes Russia, China to Task on Rights

Times Staff Writer

The State Department criticizes Russia for manipulating elections and China for backsliding on human rights in a report Wednesday that also complains about the rights records of Pakistan and Turkey, despite those nations’ cooperation with the United States in fighting terrorism.

Expressing disappointment at the lack of progress on human rights around the world, the department’s annual analysis accuses the Russian government of pressuring news organizations and political opponents and using other tactics to improperly influence the democratic process.

“Criminal prosecutions and threats of prosecutions against major financial supporters of opposition parties and independent nongovernmental organizations undermined the parties’ ability to compete, weakened civil society and raised questions about the rule of law in Russia,” it says.


The report also cites rights abuses in Russia’s war-torn republic of Chechnya and says the government’s prosecution of espionage cases raises questions about the national security service, the FSB, which is the domestic successor to the KGB.

Addressing China, it says the U.S. government started out 2003 hoping for a continuation of the progress of the preceding year. Instead, “we saw backsliding on key human rights issues.”

The report cites continued harsh repression of the Falun Gong spiritual movement in China and the arrests of democratic activists, dissident workers, defense lawyers, church members and others. It says the government has “used the war on terror to justify its continuing crackdown” on Uighurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic group in southwestern China, and that its record in Tibet remains poor.

U.S. human rights activists said they found the government’s language on Russia and China tough. The tone could cause friction with two countries on which the Bush administration is relying on a number of key issues.

On Pakistan, the report cites abuses by security forces, ranging from extrajudicial killings to excessive use of force.

While noting that Turkey has adopted some reforms, the report says “torture and impunity” remain serious problems, as does harassment of journalists. It also says the Saudi Arabian government’s rights record remains poor, despite some improvements.

The report also cites “serious human rights abuses” committed by Israeli security forces against Palestinian detainees. But it also says that Palestinian security services and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat’s Fatah faction have taken part in attacks on Israeli troops and civilians.

Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, praised the report as honest overall but said he found it too forgiving in describing the reforms of the government in Afghanistan. It should have cited abuses committed by U.S.-backed regional warlords, he said.

Alex Arriaga, director of government relations for Amnesty International, also generally praised the report. She noted that in the case of Turkey, an important ally, it “didn’t try to put on a happy face.”

At the same time, she said, it overlooked possible U.S. abuses in Iraq, in the treatment of prisoners and civilians, and the use of indiscriminate weapons such as cluster bombs.