U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has released the 47th annual report on Human Rights Practices for nearly 200 countries, showing an erosion of human rights last year in Iran, Afghanistan, Burma, China, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. Photo by Peter Foley/UPI | License Photo
March 21 (UPI) -- The United States has released its 47th annual report on Human Rights Practices for nearly 200 countries, showing an erosion of human rights last year in Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar, China, Cuba, Nicaragua and Ethiopia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken released the report Monday "to safeguard and uphold human dignity when it's under threat in so many ways," calling the information important for U.S. diplomacy.
"Human rights are universal. They aren't defined by any one country, philosophy or region. They apply to everyone, everywhere," Blinken said.
"The report makes clear that, in 2022, in countries across every region, we continued to see a backsliding of human rights conditions -- the closing of civic space, disrespect for fundamental human dignity," Blinken said as he turned his focus to specific countries, including Iran.
"The report details the appalling and ongoing abuses committed by the regime in Iran against its own people," Blinken said. "In the wake of the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, authorities have killed hundreds of peaceful protestors, including dozens of children, and have arbitrarily detained thousands."
Blinken also called out the ongoing decline of human rights in the People's Republic of China.
"The PRC continues its abuses, including genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghurs, repression of Tibetans, crackdown on basic rights in Hong Kong and targeting of individuals on the mainland for exercising fundamental freedoms."
Blinken also pointed to ongoing human rights violations in Afghanistan, where the Taliban represses women's and girls' rights to education and work, and in Myanmar, where thousands of activists have been killed by the military regime. He also denounced offenses in Cuba and Nicaragua, where the "authoritarian government continues to detain political prisoners and hold them in appalling prison conditions."
While human rights degraded last year in Ethiopia, Blinken said November's Cessation of Hostilities Agreement is helping to renew humanitarian assistance, restore justice and stop the fighting.
"I have determined that members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean Defense Forces, Tigray People's Liberation Front forces and Amhara forces committed war crimes during the conflict in northern Ethiopia," Blinken said.
"The conflict in northern Ethiopia was devastating. Men, women and children were killed. Women and girls were subject to horrific forms of sexual violence. Thousands were forcibly displaced from their homes. Entire communities were specifically targeted based on their ethnicity," Blinken added, saying the parties to the agreement have since acknowledged the atrocities.
"The government of Ethiopia is taking the first steps by publicly releasing a detailed green paper of transitional justice options based upon best practices and building upon the experiences of other states emerging from periods of mass violence."
While Blinken focused on other countries, he said the report applies to all allies and partners, including the United States, which "faces its own set of challenges on human rights."
"Our willingness to confront our challenges openly, to acknowledge our own shortcomings -- not to sweep them under the rug or pretend they don't exist -- that is what distinguishes us and other democracies."
Blinken credited journalists, officials and citizens for documenting human rights abuses at "great personal risk of retaliation, harassment, detention, torture, even death," as he celebrated the ten Global Human Rights Defender awardees and his colleagues at the State Department.