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Human rights abuses 'accelerating' worldwide, says State Department report

By Eric DuVall
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the U.S. embassy in Australia in 2014. Kerry unveiled the State Department's annual report on global human rights abuses and reiterated the U.S. policy against torturing people. File photo courtesy Department of State
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at the U.S. embassy in Australia in 2014. Kerry unveiled the State Department's annual report on global human rights abuses and reiterated the U.S. policy against torturing people. File photo courtesy Department of State | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department on Wednesday released its annual global report on human rights, citing an "accelerating trend" toward abuses "in every part of the world."

Secretary of State John Kerry assailed states, some of which are U.S. allies in the Middle East and Africa, where governments and non-state actors are tightening their grip on civil societies, closing down access to independent media, the Internet, and -- in the most extreme cases -- killing people for voicing their opposition.

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The report comes as America's own policies on torture have become an increasing part of the presidential campaign. Republican front-runner Donald Trump has called for the United States to employ methods of torture on suspected terrorists, and has called on Congress to rewrite legislation legalizing the practice. His chief rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, has said he opposes the use of torture, but does not believe waterboarding, which simulates drowning and was used under the administration of former President George W. Bush after Sept. 11, constitutes torture, and should therefore be legal.

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While failing to mention Trump or Cruz by name, Kerry took aim at U.S. politicians who have cast doubts about America's no-torture policy.

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"I want to remove even a scintilla of doubt or confusion that has been caused by statements that others have made in recent weeks and months," Kerry said during remarks at the State Department unveiling the human rights report. "The United States is opposed to the use of torture in any form, at any time, by any government or non-state actor."

The report includes blunt characterizations of nations, some of which are friendly to U.S. interests, and others with which the Obama administration has worked to improve relations.

The report cites Iran, which struck a deal with the United States aimed at preventing it from building nuclear weapons, for cracking down on political dissidents and limiting political opposition, referring to its "severe restrictions on civil liberties."

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Much the same was also said about Cuba, a nation with which the United States recently resumed diplomatic ties.

The report also points out the "shocking" behavior of non-state actors like the Islamic State in the Middle East and militant Islamic groups in Africa, including Boko Haram and al-Shabab, for their egregious human rights abuses.

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The State Department also called out Russian President Vladimir Putin for employing "a range of measures to suppress dissent."

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