[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] Monday released its 2004 annual reports on human rights practices in 196 countries, delivering with sharp criticisms of rights situations in Middle Eastern allies Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt. The document also censured China, Russia and the six countries identified by the Bush administration as "outposts of tyranny:" Iran, North Korea, Burma, Belarus, Zimbabwe and Cuba. The government of Sudan was rebuked for allowing the killing of civilians by government-backed militia in Sudan's Darfur province [Human Rights Watch backgrounder]. On the positive side, the report cited human rights improvements in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ukraine, saying the increased citizen participation in national elections exhibits "momentum for the improvement of human rights practices for all people participating in them." Review the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices report, and the text of an accompanying State Department statement. AFP has more.