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U.S. Report Describes a Global Retreat on Human Rights


WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday that governments around the world, including in Russia and China, grew more repressive last year, as the State Department released its annual report on global human rights.

The department’s 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices echoes President Biden’s warnings that authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. Its introduction cites “continued democratic backsliding on several continents, and creeping authoritarianism that threatens both human rights and democracy — most notably, at present, with Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine.”

The report covers the past year and thus does not include details about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. But it singled out Russia’s government as a leading rights abuser, citing reports of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, physical abuse of suspects by police and other offenses, along with frequent impunity for accused security officials.

Among the trends Mr. Blinken highlighted was the increasingly brazen way governments were “reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics.” He described a plot to kidnap a journalist in New York that prosecutors said was orchestrated by an intelligence network in Iran, and the Belarusian government’s decision to force a Ryanair passenger flight to land so that security forces could arrest a journalist on board.

Some governments were also quick to lock up critics at home, Mr. Blinken said, listing Cuba, Egypt and Russia. More than one million political prisoners are being held in 65 countries, the report found.

China’s government “continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity” against ethnic Uyghurs in Xinjiang and has cracked down on basic freedoms in Hong Kong, Mr. Blinken said.

One nation that saw a serious turn for the worse was Afghanistan, whose U.S.-backed government collapsed after Mr. Biden withdrew American forces from the country in August. Mr. Blinken described “a serious erosion of human rights,” including arbitrary detentions of women, protesters and journalists; reprisals against the former government’s security forces; and restrictions on the freedom of women and girls to work and study.

One positive sign amid the bleak landscape, Mr. Blinken said, was the successful U.S.-led effort last week to suspend Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“A country that’s perpetrating gross and systemic violations of human rights shouldn’t sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights,” he said.



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