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The reports says the United States left behind a "budding police state."
Human Rights Watch has warned that Iraq is falling back into authoritarianism and headed towards becoming a police state, despite claims from Washington that the United States has helped establish democracy in the country.
The criticism from the New York-based rights group comes a month after U.S. forces completed their withdrawal from Iraq, handing over security to Iraqi forces nearly nine years after the invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
In a statement accompanying its annual report, Human Rights Watch said: "Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a budding police state."
The nongovernmental group said that Iraqi authorities during 2011 cracked down on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists.
It also noted the discovery of secret prisons -- run by forces controlled by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office -- where detainees were tortured.

Meanwhile, security and medical sources say that at least nine people were killed on January 22 in three areas across Iraq.

Two police officers and two insurgents were killed in clashes in the town of Baquba, 57 kilometers north-east of the capital Baghdad.

The Iraqi news agency Al-Bughdadia reported that four soldiers were killed in an attack by unknown gunmen at a checkpoint in the western city of Fallujah.

Meanwhile, one person died and three were wounded when a car bomb exploded in the northern city of Mosul, security sources said.

with agency reports
Belarusian opposition activist Alena Toustsik
BABRUYSK, Belarus -- An opposition activist in eastern Belarus is facing eviction from her home and could also be divested of her parental rights, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

Alena Toustsik, an opposition United Civic Party activist in the town of Babruysk, told RFE/RL on January 20 that officials from the construction company that used to employ her husband, Dzmitry Toustsik, have officially asked her and her baby to vacate a room in the company's dormitory where they have been living.

The officials told Alena Toustsik that since her husband is no longer working for the company, she and her daughter should leave the dormitory.

Toustsik also told RFE/RL that she has been summoned to the local department for child protection and warned that her parental rights might be taken away from her because she and her husband "have been added to a list of 'unreliable individuals.'"

Alena's husband Dzmitry has been missing since December 6, one day after police searched their dormitory room and reported finding illegal drugs.

She said the case against her husband is politically motivated because of his opposition political activity.

Alena Toustsik was officially informed on December 9 that her husband is sought by the police and that a criminal case had been launched against him.

Dzmitry Toustsik's current whereabouts are unknown.

Read more in Belarusian here

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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