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US Human Rights Report Slams Iran, Cuba

by Isabela Cocoli June 25, 2015

The United States released a long-delayed annual human rights report on Thursday, with strong words for countries like Iran, Cuba, Myanmar and Vietnam, even as it seeks to improve relations with them.

Though the United States and other world powers are attempting to reach a nuclear deal with Iran by June 30, the State Department report criticized Tehran for having the second-highest execution rate in the world 'after legal proceedings that frequently didn't respect Iran's own constitutional guarantee to due process.'

On Cuba, the State Department said that while Havana had largely eased travel restrictions in January, the government still denied passport requests for certain opposition figures, or harassed them upon their return to the country.

​The report also denounced the 'brutality' of extremist groups and said 2014 was defined by suffering and abuse for far too many people.

Secretary of State John Kerry said, "No country can fulfill its potential if its people are held back or, more so, beaten down by repression."

"Despite that simple truth, these reports show that too many governments continue to tighten their grasp on free expression, association, and assembly, using increasingly repressive laws, politically motivated prosecutions and even new technologies to deny citizens their universal human rights, in the public square, and in virtual space," he said in a written preface to the report.

Violence by extremists

In some regions of the Middle East and Africa, violent extremists have shown zero regard for human rights and human life, Kerry said.

"Groups like ISIL burn human beings alive, barbarically behead prisoners, sell girls into slavery, and execute innocents widely and indiscriminately," he said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.

The world has "witnessed the brutality and nihilism of the horrific attacks by Pakistani Taliban and Boko Haram on schoolchildren, the assassinations of Charlie Hebdo journalists, and numerous outrages and killings carried out by ISIL," Kerry said.

​​Governments in China, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia, among others, continued to stifle free and open media and the development of civil society through the imprisonment of journalists, bloggers, and non-violent critics, he said.

In Thailand, the military overthrew a democratically-elected government, repealed the constitution, and severely limited civil liberties, he added.

Other threats to human rights noted in the report include terrorism, corruption and counter-terrorism efforts that have been used to crackdown on personal freedoms.

Kerry said the reports have included more data over the years.

"Every country, including the United States, has room to improve," regarding human rights, said Kerry, who mentioned the racial discord that has occurred in the U.S. in the past year.

"We approach this (report) with great self-awareness," he said.

Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.



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