U.S. Slams Mideast Rights Abuses

Human Rights abuse, amnesty torture
The State Department criticized Israeli and Palestinian authorities Monday for widespread abuses in their conflict, and denounced China for what it said was a long list of rights violations.

In its annual human rights report, the State Department said many supporters of the U.S.-led war effort in Iraq had subpar rights records in 2002.

Uzbekistan earned a "very poor" rating although the study acknowledged some notable improvements. In Eritrea, the report said, "the government's poor human rights record worsened, and it continued to commit serious abuses."

Qatar and Kuwait, two of the countries most identified with the war against Iraq, were said to be generally respectful of the rights of citizens.

Introducing the report during a brief meeting with reporters, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq is liberating that country from a "ruthless tyranny that has shown utter contempt for human life." He vowed to help the Iraqi people create a "representative democracy that respects the rights of all of its citizens."

The report, covering almost 200 countries, said respect for human rights was generally good in Latin America but it listed six countries where rights conditions were listed as "poor" -- Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador and Venezuela.

On Israel, the report said the country's overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor, and worsened in several areas as it continued to commit "numerous, serious human rights abuses."

"Security forces killed at least 990 Palestinians and two foreign nationals and injured 4,382 Palestinians and other persons during the year, including innocent bystanders," the report said.

It said Israeli security forces targeted and killed at least 37 Palestinian terror suspects.

"Israeli forces undertook some of these targeted killings in crowded areas when civilian casualties were likely, killing 25 bystanders, including 13 children," the report said.

It noted that the Israeli government said that it made every effort to reduce civilian casualties during these operations.

The report also criticized the Palestinian Authority's rights record.

It said many members of Palestinian security services and the Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization participated with civilians and terrorist groups in violent attacks against Israeli settlers, other civilians and soldiers.

"The PLO and PA have not complied with most of their commitments, notably those relating to the renunciation of violence and terrorism, taking responsibility for all PLO elements and disciplining violators," it said.

Although there was no conclusive evidence that the most senior PLO or PA leaders gave prior approval for these acts, the report said some leaders endorsed such acts in principle in speeches and interviews.

On China, the report said abuses included "instances of extrajudicial killings, torture and mistreatment of prisoners, forced confessions, arbitrary arrest and detention, lengthy incommunicado detention and denial of due process."

At the same time, the report credited the government with some positive steps, including the release of a number of prominent dissidents and the granting of permission for senior representatives of the Dalai Lama to visit the country.

The administration normally attempts to censure China on human rights grounds at the annual meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The meeting is now in its third week, and Powell declined on Monday to say whether Washington will introduce a China resolution at the commission meeting.

In Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terrorism, the report said the government's rights record remained poor. "In general police continued to commit serious abuses with impunity," it said.