U.S. praises Arab Spring but warns of instability (REUTERS) By Arshad Mohammed and Paul Eckert WASHINGTON 05/24/12 1:23pm EDT)
Reuters News Service
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(Reuters) - The United States on Thursday praised the "Arab Spring"
popular revolutions in the Middle East but said instability and
violence often precede greater respect for human rights.
In its annual survey of human rights around the world, the State
Department also recognized Myanmar for freeing opposition leader Aung
San Suu Kyi from house arrest and for starting to open up its
political system after decades of repression.
"Many of the events that have dominated recent headlines from the
revolutions in the Middle East to reforms in Burma began with human
rights, with the clear call of men and women demanding their
universal rights," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters
as she presented the report.
The report, covering 2011, described as "extremely poor" human rights
in Belarus, China, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan,
all perennial targets of U.S. criticism for denying their people
basic freedoms and democratic governance.
The report highlighted the treatment of religious minorities and what
it described as "marginalized people," including those who are
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender as well as people with
"Men and women who want to speak, worship, associate, love the way
they choose - we will defend their rights; not just on the day we
issue these reports, but every day," said Clinton.
On the Arab Spring, the report sounded notes of optimism and caution,
saying an open political culture would not appear overnight after
decades of repression.
"The yearning for change we have witnessed in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya,
Yemen, and Syria is inspirational, and yet change often creates
instability before it leads to greater respect for democracy and
human rights," it said.
"Transitions are times of uncertainty. They can be chaotic, unstable,
and at times violent. And even when they succeed, they are rarely
linear, quick, or easy," the State Department´s "Country Reports on
Human Rights Practices for 2011" added.
Clinton said the presidential election on Thursday in Egypt
showed "in real time that those demands are making a difference as
Egyptians are going to the polls to determine for the first time in
their history who their leaders will be."
CHALLENGES PERSIST IN MYANMAR
The report on Myanmar, also known as Burma, noted "significant
developments," including legal amendments allowing opposition parties
to register and Suu Kyi to run for parliament, the release of
hundreds of political prisoners, the relaxation of many censorship
controls, and the easing of some travel restrictions on citizens.
However, it also said "significant human rights problems in the
country persisted, including military attacks against ethnic
minorities in border states, which resulted in civilian deaths,
forced relocations, sexual violence, and other serious abuses."
Last year´s report on Myanmar -- covering 2010, before the political
changes that prompted Washington to ease sanctions -- described the
government as "a highly authoritarian military regime" in
which "military officers wielded the ultimate authority at each level
The litany of rights abuses attributed to Myanmar security forces,
however, differed little over the past two reports.
In contrast to the modestly improving situation in Myanmar, in
neighboring China "deterioration in key aspects of the country´s
human rights situation continued," said the report, echoing a theme
of recent years.
"Repression and coercion, particularly against organizations and
individuals involved in rights advocacy and public interest issues,
were routine," it said.
"Efforts to silence political activists and public interest lawyers
were stepped up, and, increasingly, authorities resorted to
extralegal measures including enforced disappearance, ´soft
detention,´ and strict house arrest, including house arrest of family
members, to prevent the public voicing of independent opinions," said
Under the "arbitrary arrest" section, the report catalogs harassment
of blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng, who arrived in New York last
weekend after weeks in the center of a U.S.-China diplomatic standoff
following his dramatic escape from house arrest and flight to the
U.S. embassy in Beijing.
"A number of Chinese activists, friends and supporters, and foreign
and domestic journalists who attempted to visit Chen reported being
assaulted, detained, forcibly removed, or otherwise abused and
prevented from freely accessing his village or seeing him," said the
Chen, who is preparing to study at the New York University School of
Law, has voiced fears his family and supporters will suffer more
"We have ... raised these cases and our concerns with the Chinese
government both publicly and privately," Assistant Secretary for
Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner said, referring to
Chen´s brother, nephew and supporters. (Additional reporting by Paul
Eckert; Editing by David Storey) (© Thomson Reuters 2012. 05/24/12)
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