Friday, March 12, 2010

Human Rights in Iran and China 'Worsening'

Tweet It!

The New York Times /

At a time of heavy international pressure on Iran, the State Department said on Thursday that the human rights situation there had “degenerated” since the disputed presidential election last year. In a toughly worded analysis, the department cited killings of election protesters and acts of politically motivated torture, beatings and rape. “An already poor human rights situation rapidly deteriorated after the June elections,” said Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, as the department released its overview of human rights around the world in 2009. “At least 45 people were killed in clashes,” he said. The voluminous report, an annual assessment called for by law, also broadly criticized practices in China. Mr. Posner called them “poor and worsening.” The report cites increased repression of ethnic and religious minorities, increased detention and harassment of activists and public-interest lawyers, and continuing repression in Tibet. It also criticizes the Chinese government’s control of the Internet in that country, though the report did not include the complaints early this year by Google executives about a series of major cyberattacks originating in China. Beijing has vigorously denied having any role in those attacks.

Mr. Posner said that in places like China and Iran, “connective technologies” had proved to be double-edged. While they allow a ferment of sometimes spontaneous organizational activities by dissidents and government critics, they also give governments “greater energy in curtailing freedom of expression.” In Iran, an opposition Web site reported on Thursday that a prominent political activist who was arrested on June 12, the day of Iran’s disputed presidential election, has been released from prison. Mostafa Tajzadeh, a former deputy interior minister, was released on Wednesday in what was called a “leave from prison,” the Web site, Jaras, reported. Mr. Tajzadeh received a hero’s welcome, and pictures circulated on the Web of two leading opposition figures, Mir-Hussein Moussavi and the former president, Mohammed Khatami, visiting him at his home. Hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested since the presidential election, and most of them remain incarcerated. Human Rights groups have said that none are released unconditionally and that most have posted hefty sums for bail and are summoned regularly to appear in court. The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York based group, announced this month that at least 52 journalists remain in prison. On Thursday a lawyer for Saeed Leylaz, a prominent journalist and economist, said that his client’s sentence had been reduced from nine years to six, a term that human rights groups said remained indefensible. The sentence for Bahman Amuwee, another journalist, was reduced from seven years to five, the rights group Reporters without Borders said. (Read more...)