The newly released 2021 State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices document that alarming and related trends of authoritarianism and repression in many parts of the world have continued, with damaging impacts on human lives and human rights.
“In few places have the human consequences of this decline been as stark as they are in the Russian government’s brutal war on Ukraine,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in introductory remarks. That’s especially true in recent weeks, as the Kremlin’s brutal forces have been pushed back from towns and cities they occupied or surrounded, and evidence mounts of their widespread atrocities:
“We see what this receding tide is leaving in its wake – the bodies, hands bound, left on streets; the theaters, train stations, apartment buildings reduced to rubble with civilians inside. We hear it in the testimonies of women and girls who’ve been raped and the besieged civilians starving and freezing to death.
But Ukraine is far from the only place where gross abuses are being perpetrated. In a growing trend, governments are now reaching across borders to attack critics, said Secretary Blinken:
“Over the last year alone, Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kidnap an Iranian American journalist from her home in Brooklyn; the Assad regime threatened Syrians who were cooperating with efforts in Germany’s courts to prosecute former officials for atrocities; the Lukashenka regime in Belarus forcibly diverted an international commercial flight to arrest an independent journalist.”
Governments are locking up more critics at home. Today, more than a million political prisoners are being held in over 65 countries.
The Chinese Government continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, among other minority groups, to erode fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, and to carry out systematic repression in Tibet.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover precipitated a humanitarian crisis, and their policies have seriously eroded human rights for all Afghans, especially for women and girls.
In Ethiopia, all parties to the country’s conflict, including Eritrean forces, have committed atrocities.
Human rights are universal. “People of every nationality, race, gender, disability, and age are entitled to these rights no matter what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristics,” said Secretary Blinken. That’s why the U.S. will continue to hold countries accountable for human rights abuses and undermining democratic principles.