The U.S. State Department has released its 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices document, shedding light on various governments around the world, and eight in particular, which it says are committing horrific human rights abuse against their own people.
John J. Sullivan, the acting Secretary of State, introduced the report on Friday in Washington D.C., explaining that it will help America formulate policies to combat global crises.
"This year, we have sharpened the focus of the report to be more responsive to statutory reporting requirements and more focused on government action or inaction with regard to the promotion and protection of human rights," Sullivan began.
"For example, each executive summary includes a paragraph to note the most egregious abuses that occurred in a particular country, including those against women, LGBT persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and members of religious minorities."
Although the extensive report analyzes abuses from every country and region in the world, Sullivan said that he wanted to focus on eight in particular that have been engaged in some of the worst atrocities.
Sullivan began his list with Syria, which has been devastated by an ongoing civil war that started in 2011. The U.S. and other Western allies have accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of using chemical weapons on his own people while fighting rebel groups, which have killed thousands of men, women and children.
"The entire world is aware of the horrendous human rights abuses in Syria, including barrel bombing of civilians, attacks on hospitals, widespread reports of rape and abuse by Syrian government personnel," the acting Secretary of State said.
Next, he focused on the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
"More than 670,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent months. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been internally displaced. Those responsible for the violations, abuses, and attacks must be held accountable," he pointed out.
Third, he turned his attention to North Korea, which he called "one of the most repressive and abusive regimes in the world."
"As the report makes clear, the Kim regime systematically neglects the well-being of its people to underwrite and fund its illicit weapons programs via forced labor, child labor, and the export of North Korean workers," he said.
North Korea has also been listed by persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors USA as the worst place in the world for Christians, where simply owning a Bible can get one sent to a forced labor camp, or even executed.
Sullivan continued on with China, which he says continues to spread its authoritarian system to restrict activists and crack down on freedom of expression.
"The absence of an independent judiciary, the government's crackdown in independent lawyers, and tight controls on information undermine the rule of law. We're particularly concerned about the efforts of Chinese authorities to eliminate the religious, linguistic, and cultural identities of Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, as well as restrictions on the worship of Christians," he explained.
The fifth country of particular concern was named as Iran, where citizens "continue to suffer at the hands of their leaders."
"The right of peaceful assembly and freedoms of association and expression are the legitimate expectation of all individuals worldwide. Unfortunately for the Iranian people, these human rights are under attack almost daily," he said.
The sixth government singled out was Turkey.
"The detention of tens of thousands of individuals, including journalists and academics, under an ongoing state of emergency has undermined the rule of law there," Sullivan said.
A major case that has been making headline news in America concerns the fate of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson, facing up to 35 years in prison if convicted of terrorism charges, which the Christian father says are entirely false.
Sullivan then criticized Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and his regime:
"Thousands flee their homes daily in response to this growing humanitarian crisis. At the Summit of the Americas last week, Vice President [Mike] Pence announced $16 million in humanitarian aid from the United States to help those who have fled Venezuela, are in — and are in desperate need of food, water, and medical help. We stand by the Venezuelan people even as their leaders refuse to allow aid into the country."
Lastly, the acting Secretary of State talked about the worsening human rights situation in Russia.
"The Russian government continues to quash dissent and civil society, even while it invades its neighbors and undermines the sovereignty of Western nations," he said.
"We once again urge Russia to end its brutal occupation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, to halt the abuses perpetrated by Russian-led forces in Ukraine's Donbas region, and to address impunity for the human rights violations and abuses in the Republic of Chechnya."
The full 2017 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is available on the State Department website.