SOME OF THE WORST human rights violations last year - attacks
on civilians, crackdowns on dissidents, illegal detentions and
discrimination against minorities - were committed by Russia and
China, says the State Department.
In its annual survey of human rights released Wednesday, the
State Department documented worsening and widespread human rights
abuses in both countries.
Human rights groups credited the department for issuing such
tough critiques, but questioned why the information wasn't
translating into tougher action by President Bill Clinton's
administration. "It's an attempt to look good after the fact," said
James O'Dea, Washington director for Amnesty International.
With Russia, the Clinton administration was slow to publicly
criticize Russian President Boris Yeltsin for ordering an assault
in December of civilian targets in secessionist-minded Chechnya.
And with China, the president backed down last spring from tying
trade privileges to improvements in human rights.
The human rights report, which was delivered to Congress, could
stir debate among lawmakers on punishing Russia for its human
rights abuses by limiting aid.
Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, who monitors human rights
for the State Department, said Russia had assaulted the human
rights of thousands of civilians in Chechnya. He said the
department was reviewing assistance programs to see if some aid
could be redirected to assist Chechen refugees.
Shattuck said the department agreed with the accusation of
Russia's human rights commissioner, Sergey Kovalev, that Russian
troops violated human rights on a "massive scale" in Chechnya.
The State Department report said the Russian army used
"disproportionate forces and inflicted heavy civilian casualties"
Overall, the State Department said Russia's human rights record
last year was "uneven":
The rule of law has yet to be institutionalized.
Discrimination against certain minorities, including Jews,
Conditions in most prisons are deplorable.
With China, the Clinton administration's strategy of
"constructive engagement" through continued economic and political
ties has produced little results. Shattuck said no large change in
U.S. policy toward that country was anticipated.
By the State Department's own account, there is increasing
evidence of "widespread and well-documented" human rights abuses
that violate international norms. …