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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 11:25 GMT
US slams Mid-East on human rights
A Palestinian uses a slingshot to hurl a stone at Israeli forces
Palestinian security joined 'violent attacks' by civilians on Israelis, the report says
The US state department has strongly condemned Israel and the Palestinians in its annual human rights report.

The report also focused criticism on North Korea, Burma and Cuba - and said expected improvements in China had failed to materialise.

The survey had harsh words for the Russian government, too, which it accused of weakening civil society.

The report insisted that the United States was not compromising on human rights to help the war on terror.

The massive annual analysis - hundreds of pages long - contains a detailed review of the human rights in just about every country in the world.

It said that Israel's human rights record in the Palestinian territories "remained poor and worsened in the treatment of foreign human rights activists".

Rachel Corrie
US activist Rachel Corrie was killed in the Gaza Strip
A US activist, Rachel Corrie, was killed trying to block the path of an Israeli bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in March 2003. Israel said her death was an accident.

A UK student, Tom Hurndall, was shot and critically wounded in June. He died in hospital in London in January without ever regaining consciousness.

An Israeli soldier has been arrested in connection with Hurndall's death and is facing manslaughter charges.

The state department report said Israeli troops used excessive force against Palestinian demonstrators and punished innocent civilians via closures, curfews and house demolitions.

'Palestinian terrorists'

The US report was also critical of the Palestinian Authority, saying that official security forces "participated with civilians and terrorist groups in violent attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel, Israeli settlers, foreign nationals, and soldiers".

The report accuses "Palestinian terrorists" of killing 376 Israelis in the Palestinian territories.

Amidst criticism of most Middle Eastern countries, the report singles out Morocco and Jordan for working to improve the status of women.

The US state department insists it has not watered down its views to help allies in the war on terror and the document points out that the current focus on the Middle East has not taken attention away from the rest of the world.

Asian abuses

Among the countries facing tough criticism is China, where the report says there was backsliding on key human rights issues.

File photo of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Burma was criticised for its treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi

It also highlights North Korea where it paints a bleak picture of what it describes as one of the world's most inhumane regimes.

The report says that Burma's extremely poor human rights record worsened last year, particularly with the attack on a convoy containing the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

And it says human rights abuses in Cuba also worsened dramatically.

Russia comes under criticism for a number of its actions. The report says both national elections in Russia and regional elections in Chechnya failed to meet international standards.

It also points to the closure of independent TV networks and the prosecution of businessmen who support the opposition which, it argues, weakens civil society and raises questions about the rule of law.

With the United States under attack for its own record on Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq, some human rights activists have asked whether Washington has any right to produce this report, but its authors argue that promoting respect for human rights is a central dimension of American foreign policy.

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