US slams ‘bru­tal­ity’ of Is­lamic mil­i­tants in rights re­port


The United States de­nounced the “bru­tal­ity” of Is­lamic mil­i­tants Thurs­day and high­lighted a litany of abuses in Iran and Cuba as it un­veiled an an­nual as­sess­ment of hu­man rights around the world.

“No de­vel­op­ment has been more dis­turb­ing than the rise of groups such as Daesh,” U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry said, re­fer­ring to the self-pro­claimed Is­lamic State group, as he launched the 2014 re­port at the State Depart­ment.

Even though the re­port fo­cuses “on the be­hav­ior of gov­ern­ments — which bear re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pro­mo­tion and pro­tec­tion of hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms in their ter­ri­to­ries — the year 2014 will be re­mem­bered as much for atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by non-state ac­tors,” the re­port says.

In a writ­ten pref­ace, Kerry said vi­o­lent ji­hadist groups had “made it clear that not only do they have zero re­gard for hu­man rights, they have zero re­gard for hu­man life, pe­riod.”

He noted that “ev­ery week brings new ex­am­ples of just how far the evil of these groups reaches,” cat­a­loging be­head­ings, peo­ple be­ing burned alive, girls be­ing sold into slav­ery and civil­ians be­ing “widely and in­dis­crim­i­nately” ex­e­cuted.

The an­nual coun­try-by-coun­try in­dex, which was de­layed by sev­eral months this year, gives a stark as­sess­ment of the state of hu­man rights in ev­ery coun­try around the world — ex­cept back home in the United States.

‘Rou­tine’ Re­pres­sion

As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary for Democ­racy, Hu­man Rights and La­bor Tom Mali­nowski called 2014 a “tough year for hu­man rights,” list­ing coun­tries from Africa to the Mid­dle East, eastern Europe, Asia and South Amer­ica where ba­sic free­doms have been rolled back.

In a break with the past, the 2014 re­port high­lighted the rise of groups such as the Is­lamic State, along with other es­tab- lished terror or­ga­ni­za­tions like al- Qaida in the Ara­bian Penin­sula, its sis­ter branch in the Maghreb and Boko Haram in Nige­ria, say­ing the “bru­tal­ity of these ac­tors is one of the no­table trends” of 2014.

It also turned a spotlight on some coun­tries seen as se­rial of­fend­ers in hu­man rights abuses, in­clud­ing those with whom Washington is seek­ing to im­prove ties, like Cuba and Iran.

On the eve of new ne­go­ti­a­tions on a nu­clear deal be­tween Kerry and his Ira­nian coun­ter­part Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif, the State Depart­ment warned: “Iran con­tin­ued to se­verely re­strict civil lib­er­ties, in­clud­ing the free­doms of assem­bly, speech, re­li­gion and press.”

It pointed to “po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated vi­o­lence and re­pres­sion” in the coun­try and abuses such as “dis­ap­pear­ances, cruel, in­hu­man or de­grad­ing treat­ment.”

And only a day af­ter high-level talks with Chi­nese of­fi­cials in Washington, the State Depart­ment blasted “re­pres­sion and co­er­cion by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment” in 2014 which it said “con­tin­ued to be rou­tine.”

High­light­ing cen­sor­ship and tight re­stric­tions on free­doms of ex­pres­sion, re­li­gion and as­so­ci­a­tion par­tic­u­larly in Ti­bet and for the Uighur peo­ple in Xin­jiang, it noted that “cit­i­zens lacked the abil­ity to change their gov­ern­ment and had lim­ited forms of re­dress against of­fi­cial abuse.”

It also took to task Cuba, just as the U.S. is poised to re­store diplo­matic ties with the com­mu­nist-run Caribbean is­land frozen for half a cen­tury.

Cuban author­i­ties “re­port­edly used threats, phys­i­cal as­sault, in­tim­i­da­tion” among other meth­ods to halt peace­ful assem­bly and car­ried out some 9,000 ar­bi­trary de­ten­tions — the high­est num­ber over the past five years.

Another trend noted in the re­port was the role of so­cial net­works and new tech­nol­ogy “in com­bat­ing as well as car­ry­ing out hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions,” the re­port said.

Au­thor­i­tar­ian gov­ern­ments overtly sought to crack down on In­ter­net free­doms, with 41 coun­tries seek­ing to pass laws to pun­ish or re­strict online speech.

But at the same time, tech­nol­ogy such as satel­lite im­agery, videos and crowd sourc­ing is be­com­ing a vi­tal tool in doc­u­ment­ing hu­man rights abuses in places were it can be hard to get ac­cess.

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