US State Department rights report slams 2013 abuses

WASHINGTON D.C. – Human rights throughout the world saw significant setbacks in 2013, said the U.S. Department of State in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

From Syria, where an August 21 chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus killed at least 1,429 Syrians according to the U.S., to Egypt, where security forces' violent dispersal of sit-in protests left 600-900 dead that same month, governments continued to repress fundamental rights.

“This year's report, we think, is especially timely. It comes on the heels of one of the most momentous years in the struggle for greater rights and freedom in modern history,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department Thursday.

According to America’s top diplomat, “The struggle for rights and dignity couldn't be more relevant to what we are seeing transpire across the globe. The places where we face some of the greatest national security challenges today are also places where governments deny basic human rights to their nations' people.”

The survey sharply criticized government repression of peaceful protests from Bahrain to China, saying that such actions which were “evident in every region of the world” continue to go without punishment.

It referred to the ongoing Ukraine crisis as a case in which authorities resorted to violence to disperse peaceful protests in Independence Square (Maydan), seriously injuring scores of people.

The survey noted that a climate of impunity for security forces persists in several countries, including Russia, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria and Burma. “Accountability is crucial to their future stability and economic development,” it said.

Beyond violent crackdowns, the report noted increased restrictions on the press and freedom of expression, both online and off.

The report is part of a congressionally mandated annual review of human rights around the globe.

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