A new U.S. State Department report has labeled the governments of Russia, Iran, China, and North Korea as "morally reprehensible" with human rights violations on a daily basis, making them "forces of instability."
While releasing the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2017, an annual examination of human rights practices of nearly 200 countries, acting Secretary of State John Sullivan said on April 20 that while some governments are not able to maintain security and meet the basic needs of their people, others "are simply unwilling."
"States that restrict freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly; that allow and commit violence against members of religious, ethnic, and other minority groups; or that undermine the fundamental dignity of persons are morally reprehensible and undermine our interests," he said.
"The governments of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, for example, violate the human rights of those within their borders on a daily basis and are forces of instability as a result."
The report sharply chided Moscow in the Russia section of the report, saying it continues to “arm, train, lead, and fight alongside pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and that human rights in Russia continue to be "significantly and negatively" affected by Moscow's "purported annexation" of Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatist fighters in eastern Ukraine.
The harsh words for Russia contrast with U.S. President Donald Trump's largely conciliatory rhetoric toward Moscow and his reluctance to speak publicly about human rights concerns, either in Russia or elsewhere in the world.
“Authorities also conducted politically motivated arrests, detentions, and trials of Ukrainian citizens in Russia, many of whom claimed to have been tortured. Human rights groups asserted that numerous Ukrainian citizens remained in Russia as political prisoners,” the report said.
The report also chides the government for failing to take “adequate steps” to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a “climate of impunity.”
Russia illegally annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and continues to back separatists in eastern Ukraine in a conflict that has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
The report says that the conflict in the North Caucasus between government forces, insurgents, Islamist militants, and criminals has led to numerous abuses of human rights, including killings, torture, physical abuse, politically motivated abductions, and a general degradation in the rule of law.
“Ramzan Kadyrov’s government in Chechnya committed abuses with impunity. Virtually none of these abuses was credibly investigated or prosecuted by either the federal government or local Chechen authorities,” it said.
On the Kyiv government, the U.S. State Department report says civilian authorities generally maintained “effective control” over security forces in the territory controlled by the government, but that it “generally failed to take adequate steps” to prosecute or punish most officials who committed abuses, resulting in a climate of impunity.
“Human rights groups and the United Nations noted significant deficiencies in investigations into human rights abuses committed by government security forces, in particular into allegations of torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, and other abuses reportedly perpetrated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU),” the report said.
“Investigations into alleged human rights abuses related to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the continuing aggression in the Donbas region remained incomplete due to lack of government control in those territories and the refusal of Russia and Russia-led forces to investigate abuse allegations,” it added.
The report said Iran’s theocratic government was responsible for “a high number of executions for crimes not meeting the international legal standard of ‘most serious crimes’ and without fair trials of individuals.”
It also accused Iran of torture, jailing of dissidents, severe restrictions on freedom of the press, gays, and religious minorities.
“The country materially contributed to human rights abuses in Syria, through its military support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and for Hizballah forces there, as well as in Iraq, through its aid to certain Iraqi Shi'a militia groups,” it added.
The State Department report does not include comparisons or rankings of the countries that it studied.
The report comes as Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is awaiting confirmation.