A new human rights report by the U.S. State Department says hundreds of millions of people worldwide were denied fundamental freedoms by their governments last year.
In releasing the report, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that the U.S. will seek to live up to its own human rights ideals. She said the promotion of human rights is essential to U.S. foreign policy.
The report says a "disturbing" number of countries imposed burdensome, restrictive, or repressive laws and regulations against non-governmental groups and the media, including the Internet. Vietnam, China, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were among the countries named.
On Africa, the State Department says several countries were stabilizing forces, but that human rights and democratic development faced severe challenges across the continent, especially in Zimbabwe, Guinea and Mauritania. The report expresses concern about elections in Armenia and Russia, and the continued imprisonment of political and social activists in Egypt, Iran, Libya, and Syria.But it praises the Colombian, Chilean and Argentine governments for working to end impunity by addressing past human rights abuses.
The State Department asserts that the rights abuses seen worldwide are a symptom of deeper dysfunction within political systems, and often occurred in countries where unaccountable rulers had unchecked power. The report does not review the human rights practices of the U.S. government.
However, it says Washington will continue to hear and reply to concerns by other governments and international rights groups about U.S. practices.
The 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is based on information from governments, national and international non-governmental groups, academics, jurists, religious groups, and the media.