[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] on Wednesday named North Korea, Burma and Iran among the world's biggest human rights offenders in its 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices [State Dept. materials; Rice statement video], saying that "countries in which power is concentrated in the hands of unaccountable rulers tend to be the world's most systematic human rights violators."
The reports also drew special attention to Iraq and China. In Iraq [country report], the Department noted that the number of killings and reports of abuse by Iraqi police increased [Reuters report] during 2005. By definition, the Iraq report only covered local forces, not US or other Coalition forces operating in Iraq.
The US also condemned abuses in China [country report], saying that "the government's human rights record remained poor," and noted increased controls on the media as particularly problematic. Some positive developments were highlighted, however, including the government's return of authority [JURIST report] to the Supreme People's Court to approve death sentences.
Nepal, Uzbekistan, Russia and Pakistan were also singled out for prominent criticism.
The State Department has issued annual assessments of individual countries' records in implementing commitments on human rights reflected in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] since 1977. The reports normally prompt criticism of America's own rights record [JURIST report] from governments implicated in the report, and the introduction [text] to the 2005 report seems to anticipate this:
To be sure, violations of human rights and miscarriages of justice can and do occur in democratic countries. No governmental system is without flaws. Human rights conditions in democracies across the globe vary widely, and these country reports reflect that fact. In particular, democratic systems with shallow roots and scarce resources can fall far short of meeting their solemn commitments to citizens, including human rights commitments. Democratic transitions can be tumultuous and wrenching. Rampant corruption can retard democratic development, distort judicial processes, and destroy public trust. Nonetheless, taken overall, countries with democratic systems provide far greater protections against violations of human rights than do nondemocratic states.
Reuters has more. VOA has additional coverage.