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"Civilians were increasingly caught in fighting between antigovernment forces and government forces and their international supporters. Antigovernment forces, in many cases led by the Taliban, routinely violated the laws of war, [drawing] return fire from NATO and/or U.S. forces. As a result, NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces killed more than 300 civilians, but it's entirely possible the number is much higher, given the difficulty that Western forces have in distinguishing combatants from civilians and the extensive reliance on air power by Western forces."

-- Sam Zarifi, a Human Rights Watch advocate based in Washington, D.C.


"The country remains notorious for sentencing its juveniles. Today over 70 young offenders are on death row, a rate higher than any other country. Iran is also widely touted for repressing political dissidents and mistreating prisoners. Over the past year, authorities subjected people who peacefully expressed their political views to torture, beatings, sleep deprivation, and prolonged solitary confinement. Journalists, human rights defenders, lawyers, and political activists continue being at risk of arrest and imprisonment."

-- Assef Ashraf, senior associate, HRW's Middle East and North Africa Division


"I think people in Russia care very much about human rights, but it depends how you define the terms. Every Russian family that has a son who's of military age is eventually going to be concerned about him being conscripted into the army, and they're concerned because of the human rights violations that take place in the army. Many ordinary people in Russia worry a lot about coming into contact with the criminal justice system, with the police, they fear the police not because the police are authority but because the police are abusive. That's a human rights issue."

-- Rachel Denber, deputy director, HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division


"Throughout the year, Human Rights Watch has monitored with profound concern the rapidly deteriorating media freedoms in the country. We have expressed particular concern that the Azerbaijani government has used libel, defamation, and other criminal charges to intimidate independent and opposition journalists in the country. Some of the journalists have also been physically attacked by unidentified assailants. By the end of 2007, nine journalists were behind bars for what appeared to be politically motivated defamation and other criminal charges."

-- Georgi Gogia, researcher, HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division


"The main concern of the last year has been the violence that authorities used to disperse demonstrators on November 7. Hundreds of government forces violently dispersed opposition-led demonstrators in downtown Tbilisi. The demonstrations were largely peaceful and they [government forces] raided and closed a private television station, injuring at least 500 people, some of them critically. These actions triggered a very serious human rights crisis in the country, one could say the largest human rights crisis since George's Rose Revolution."

-- Georgi Gogia, researcher, HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division


"[Some] small steps that have been taken, some people have been allowed to travel abroad who had been blacklisted before, but there's still a fundamental problem with travel abroad in Turkmenistan. There have been some small movements in freedom of religion, but there are still serious problems with freedom of religion. It's still safe to say Turkmenistan remains one of the most repressive countries in the world."

-- Rachel Denber, deputy director, HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division


"With regard to governments, there should be more pressure on Uzbekistan to really fulfill its international human rights commitments. We have often heard the argument, especially with the EU, that the EU should maintain a dialogue with Uzbekistan, and this is something Human Rights Watch is absolutely supporting. But dialogue should not be maintained as a means in itself, but it should aim towards firm benchmarks, toward an improvement in the human rights situation, and so far unfortunately we have not seen this."

-- Andrea Berg, Central Asia researcher, HRW's Europe and Central Asia Division