US criticizes rights abuses in Iran, Russia, China
The United States criticized Iran Tuesday for its crackdown on opposition groups, while chiding Russia and China for failing to protect human rights activists and minorities, AP reported.
The U.S., which was elected to the 47-nation U.N. Human Rights Council in May, expressed concern about abuses in more than a dozen countries including Sri Lanka, Cuba and Vietnam, but reserved some of its strongest words for the government in Tehran.
"We remain deeply concerned about the manner in which the Iranian government handled protests by its population following the June presidential election," said U.S. diplomat Douglas M. Griffiths.
"The Iranian government harshly repressed its people's right to freedom of assembly and expression, resulting in scores of deaths of protesters as well as hundreds of arrests," he said.
Iranian opposition groups say at least 72 protesters were killed in the violence that followed the election. Government officials maintain that only 36 people died in the unrest.
Griffiths urged Iran to "live up to its international obligations to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms."
He also touched on the human rights situation in China and Russia - sensitive topics ahead of next week's G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh at which President Barack Obama will meet with the Russian and Chinese leaders.
"In Russia we are concerned about killings with impunity of human rights defenders and journalists in the north Caucasus," said Griffiths.
He urged a "full, transparent and independent investigation" into the killing in July of Chechen rights activist Natalya Estemirova as well as other unresolved cases.
The U.S. also expressed concern about discrimination against China's ethnic minorities, which led to riots in the autonomous region of Xinjiang in July and in Tibet last year.
"We urge the Chinese authorities as they work to maintain order to respect the safety and legal rights of all China's citizens, and make efforts to find a solution to legitimate grievances," said Griffiths.
Diplomats in Geneva are closely watching how the U.S. behaves in the rights council, a body the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush chose to disengage from over its repeated criticism of Israel.
Griffiths made no mention of Israel or the Palestinians on Tuesday, but the U.S. is expected to take the floor next week when the council debates a report it commissioned on this year's Gaza conflict. The U.S. State Department has already said its considers the report's conclusions unfair to Israel.