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World - Americas

Human rights report blasts Colombia, Cuba - praises Chile

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December 9, 1999
Web posted at: 11:37 p.m. EST (0437 GMT)


In this story:

Setback alleged in Cuba

Fujimori criticized

Report praises Chile

Haitian violence reaches 'disturbing levels'

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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Colombia and Cuba stand out as stark violators of international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch says in its annual report.

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The report, released Thursday, commended Chile for its response to the arrest in London of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Human rights violations in the Americas took place "nowhere more brutally than in Colombia," the report said. It blamed associations between the nation's military and paramilitary groups for the slaughter of people suspected of supporting anti-government guerrillas.

According to a national human rights group, the Colombian Commission of Jurists, paramilitary organizations with alleged ties to the military were blamed for 78 percent of Colombia's human rights violations in 1999, the report said. It said the guerrillas were responsible for 20 percent and state forces for 2 percent.

The report accused Colombian President Andres Pastrana's administration of not acting fast enough to fight human rights abuses.

It said "continuing criminal activity by military intelligence" was a factor in several recent high-profile killings. "Intelligence agents continued to threaten, kidnap and kill," the report said, despite the breakup of the brigade that centralized Colombia's military intelligence.

Colombia recently has been receiving limited support and military advice from the United States on how to deal with the guerrilla insurgency.

Setback alleged in Cuba

In Cuba, the report said the government of President Fidel Castro has been cracking down harder on human rights just a year after Pope John Paul II pleaded personally with Castro for improvement.

Journalists, activists and human rights workers, said the report, all faced "steady government repression."

Fujimori criticized

The report says political pressure in anticipation of a re- election campaign by Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has contributed to alleged human rights abuses against guerrillas there.

Government forces continued to battle Shining Path guerrillas in remote areas of Peru. Fujimori's administration is accused of violating human rights contained in Peru's constitution in an attempt to destroy the insurgency.

Other alleged violations by Peru's government include torture of suspects while in police custody, "brutal ill-treatment" of draftees within the military and a secret campaign by the National Intelligence Service to intimidate journalists and human rights advocates.

Report praises Chile

But the report praised Chile for government actions in the wake of Pinochet's arrest in London in an effort to extradite him to Spain for trial on charges of torture during his rule.

Following Pinochet's arrest, several other Chilean officials accused of crimes during his authoritarian regime in the 1970s and '80s were detained, charged and prosecuted.

But Chilean laws enacted under Pinochet that suppress freedom of expression continued to be enforced, the report said.

In Mexico, the report cited "serious and widespread" violations within the judicial system, despite government efforts announced last year to improve human rights.

Many of the alleged violations were listed as questionable arrests, torture and "arbitrary detention" by police, soldiers or prosecutors. Public outcry that something be done to fight Mexico's "skyrocketing" crime rate, said the report, has pressured officials to bend or even break the rules.

In Venezuela, the report says, the effort by President Hugo Chavez to rewrite the nation's constitution have created "uncertain prospects for human rights."

A national referendum on the new constitution is scheduled for next week. Human Rights Watch says it fears Chavez may use his popularity to undermine Venezuelan rights.

Haitian violence reaches 'disturbing levels'

In Haiti, the report said police violence has reached "disturbing levels," after decreasing for two years in a row. It blamed the Haitian National Police for 50 killings in the second quarter of 1999.

The report also held police responsible for summary executions of suspected gang members. Human Rights Watch calls the executions vengeance for police killed by gang members.

Police beatings of suspects in custody increased, according to the report, which described Haiti's justice system as "largely dysfunctional."

The survey said 81 percent of some 2,700 detainees in Haiti were still awaiting trial.

Human rights in Guatemala, the group said, were still affected by the recently ended 35-year-long civil war.

Alleged military atrocities committed against leftists have yet to be resolved. And the report said a marked increase in mob-style lynchings against petty criminals is a growing problem.

Argentina, Human Rights Watch says, has a "rampant" problem with police brutality. The report blamed federal and local authorities, a "lack of political will" among the nation's leadership to confront the problem, and police reluctance to take punitive action against fellow officers.

In Brazil, the report said the judicial system was failing to punish members of the police and military accused of murder, despite "overwhelming" evidence of their guilt.



RELATED STORIES:
Report: Human rights declaration ignored in 141 countries
June 17, 1998
United Nations reflects on human rights role
December 10, 1997

RELATED SITES:
Human Rights Watch World Report 2000
United Nations
Universal Declaration of Human Rights 50th Anniversary site
Amnesty International
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