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Rights Group Accuses Nations of Fine Words, Foul Deeds : Report: Many governments are hypocritical, some abuse activists, Amnesty International study says.

July 07, 1994|STANLEY MEISLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — In a depressing report scheduled for release today on the state of human rights around the globe, Amnesty International accused most of the world's governments of pledging support for human rights with lofty rhetoric, then abusing human rights in practice.

Many victims, in fact, are human rights activists who are struggling against terrible odds to tell the truth about the woeful state of human rights in their countries, the report said. "Governments that victimize human rights activists almost invariably have a great deal to hide," Amnesty International said.

As an example of hypocrisy, the report cited South Korea, which arrested one of its most prominent human rights advocates last year, just a few weeks after the South Korean foreign minister told the U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna: "I am happy to report to you that human rights have finally come of age in Korea."

"There was a lot of official talk about human rights in 1993," Amnesty International said. "The noise reached a crescendo . . . when government representatives met at the . . . conference. . . . But even as they were making worthy declarations . . activists were being threatened, imprisoned, tortured and gunned down."

The report, issued annually, chronicled and assessed events in 1993.

But Amnesty International, a private worldwide group of volunteers devoted to protecting political prisoners and other human rights victims, added a supplement to update the problems in several countries.

Summing up the situation around the globe in 1993, Amnesty International reported more than 10,000 people--half of them in Africa--in 61 countries were executed by government forces without a trial or other judicial hearing. More than 700 people, 200 in Iraq alone, in 27 countries "disappeared" after government forces took them away. Almost 4,000 prisoners were subjected to torture, rape and other ill treatment in 112 countries, the report said.

Also, more than 600 people died of torture in 49 countries, more than 100,000 were imprisoned without charges or trial in 58 countries, and almost 2,000 prisoners, 70% of them in China, were executed in 33 countries, including 38 in the United States. The organization is unconditionally opposed to the death penalty, which it considers "a gross violation of human rights."

In a country-by-country rundown, Amnesty International found continuation of grave human rights violations in China, numerous killings of civilians in Turkey by both government forces and Kurdish rebels, and continued use of executions in the United States.

Some other findings:

* Haiti--The military and its armed civilian auxiliaries have carried out violations "with complete impunity." A member of FRAPH--one of the auxiliaries--shot 17-year-old Saurel Guerrier through the heart in January "because he was suspected of being connected with a children's home established by (deposed President Jean-Bertrand) Aristide."

Amnesty International said that more than 200 evident executions by the military and its allies between January and May of this year are under investigation. It also reported a surge in political rapes of "women believed to support President Aristide's return and female relatives and friends of his supporters." The victims included pregnant women and children as young as 10.

* Mexico--After the seizure of several municipalities in Chiapas by the Zapatista National Liberation Army in January, the report said, "the Mexican army arbitrarily arrested hundreds of Mexican citizens and denied them due process. While in custody, they were ill-treated and subjected to various forms of torture."

Amnesty International said 400 Mexican troops entered the village of Morelia on Jan. 7, forcing everyone into the streets and smashing the heads of some of the men. Three villagers were tortured for five hours and then taken away. Their bodies were found several weeks later. Fourteen other villagers "disappeared" with the troops, the report said.

* Rwanda--Amnesty International accepted U.N. and press estimates of more than 200,000 dead since the massacres erupted in early April. "Some reliable estimates put the number as high as half a million," the organization said. "In addition to the vast killings, numerous other human rights violations have been committed."

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