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Report Card On Human Rights

Two frogs on water lily leaves are seen in a pond in the botanical garden in Zurich, Switzerland, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2006.
AP/Keystone, Alessandro Della Bella
Amnesty International Wednesday issued its yearbook on human rights abuses around the globe, criticizing the effect of African wars on innocents and calling the United States' record on executions "a flagrant violation of international human rights standards."

The report detailed human rights abuses and advances in every region and most countries.

In Africa, the report claimed that "People were reportedly tortured or ill-treated by security forces, police or other state authorities in 36 countries in the region" and that "Armed conflict, mass displacement of people, torture, ill-treatment and endemic impunity continued to be rife."

Conflicts in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo were responsible for many of the human rights problems in Africa, the report said.

In Zimbabwe, the report said, "politically motivated torture re-surfaced for the first time since the late 1980s, and harassment of political opponents increased."

But in Nigeria, "The situation continued to improve as further political prisoners were released," Amnesty found. "A judicial commission of inquiry was set up to investigate past human rights violations."

In its assessment of conditions in the Americas, the report noted reports of police brutality in countries like Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Jamaica and the U.S., but singled out the U.S. for allegations of racial profiling and police brutality that appeared to be ethnically motivated.

Also in the Americas, Amnesty found continuing torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in places like Belize and Peru and cited Cuba for holding several hundred political prisoners.

The report said the U.S. "continued to act in flagrant violation of international human rights standards by executing people convicted of crimes they committed under the age of 18."

In 1999, the report said, 98 people were executed in 20 U.S. states, bringing to 598 the total number since the resumption of executions in 1977.

Also in the U.S., "Foreign nationals charged with capital offences continued to be denied the right to seek consular assistance," it continued.

Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago were also criticized for executing people.

Amnesty said arbitrary detentions, torture, killings and death threats continued in Mexico, with peasants and indigenous people especially vulnerable.

In Columbia, Amnesty reported 3,500 people were victims of political violence in 1999, whether torture, murder or kidnapping.

Europe's rights record was marred by the conflict in Chechnya, where human rights abuses were called "blatant," and the persecution of Albanians in Kosovo. The report cited treatment of immigrants in England and Ireland an police tactics in Bulgaria, Moldova, France and England. The report also criticized sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and torture in Turkey.

"Throughout Europe the worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty continued," the report said, praising Turkmenistan, Lithuania and Russia for commuting many or all of their death sentences.

On the Asian continent, the report noted inter-ethnic strife in East Timor and elsewhere in Indonesia, as well as Solomon Islands and India. It slammed the Philippines for beginning executions again for the first time in 23 years, and also reported executions in Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore.

"In proportion to its population, Singapore has possibly one of the highest rates of executions in the world," the report read. It applauded Nepal's decision to ban the death penalty.

The ruling Taliban of Aghanistan were cited for conducting unfair trials and ordering floggings and executions. According to the report, Vietnam, China and Laos placed new restrictions on religious freedom.

"Women were particularly vulnerable in South Asia where governments failed to protect them and investigate serious human rights abuses such as acid attacks and 'honor killings,'" the report said, specifically mentioning Pakistan and Bangladesh.

In his foreword to the report, Pierre Sané, Amnesty International's Secretary General, says the most crucial current human rights issue is whether humanitarian interventions—like the 1999 NATO action in Kosovo, which Amnesty has criticized—are beneficial to human rights.

"We neither support nor oppose such interventions," Sané writes. "Instead, we argue that human rights crises can, and should, be prevented. They are never inevitable. "

By JARRETT MURPHY