Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The State Department outlined human rights abuses in Iraq yesterday, including reports of torture and politically motivated killings that contrast with assessments by President Bush and others of progress since the U.S.-led invasion three years ago.

The darker picture of life in Iraq is contained in the department’s annual catalog of human rights records worldwide. The survey took to task key Arab allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt for poor records overall, and called the United Arab Emirates’ performance “problematic.”

The relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates is at the center of a political fracas over a Dubai company’s plans to take over terminal operations at six U.S. ports.

The report lists six countries where restrictions on rights were said to be severe: China, Cuba, Iran, Burma, North Korea and Zimbabwe.

“A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued” in Iraq, the report said. “Reports increased of killings by the government or its agents that may have been politically motivated.”

Insurgent violence and terrorism affected every aspect of life in the country in 2005, corruption is rampant and there are reports of discrimination against women and minorities, the report said.

The report does not cover the explosion of sectarian violence set off by last month’s bombing of a revered Shi’ite mosque.

The U.S. ambassador in Baghdad this week said the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein had opened a “Pandora’s box,” and the violence could turn into an all-out regional war if American troops are withdrawn too quickly.

Iraq was the only country Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned by name in brief remarks introducing the study.

“Today, there is a worldwide discussion of democratic ideas and the universal principles that democratic governance protects,” she said. “This discussion is taking place from the halls of government in newly democratic Iraq to Internet cafes around the globe, in numerous public squares and across countless kitchen tables.”

The State Department’s human rights report has been published annually since 1977.

Repression in China increased in 2005, with a trend toward “increased harassment, detention, and imprisonment” of people seen as threats to the government, the report said.

The United States has been increasingly criticized on human rights issues, including the transfer of terror suspects to countries where human rights groups say they may be tortured.

Although U.S. officials say they do not transfer prisoners for torture, the State Department report details torture in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two nations known to cooperate in U.S. renditions.

On Egypt, the study noted reports of torture and abuse of prisoners and detainees, including deaths in custody.

The State Department noted beatings, arbitrary arrests and lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, and floggings as punishment for adultery or drug abuse in the United Arab Emirates.

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