US slams rights record of China and Iran, goes easier on N. Korea

US slams rights record of China and Iran, goes easier on N. Korea
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed China and Iran as Washington offered its annual human rights report.
3 min read
13 March, 2019
The annual human rights report is presented as a factual country-by-country description [Getty]
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday denounced China and Iran as Washington offered its annual human rights report, while going easier on other countries like North Korea in the name of "US interests."

China, often seen as the main strategic adversary of the United States in the long term and locked in thorny trade talks with Washington, "is in a league of its own when it comes to human rights violations," he said.

"In just 2018, China intensified its campaign of detaining Muslim minority groups at record level," Pompeo told reporters, referring to Beijing's campaign of repression in the restive Xinjiang region.

"Today, more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other Muslims are interned in re-education camps designed to erase their religious and ethnic identities."

As for Iran, President Donald Trump's favourite bete noire, Pompeo alleged that last year, "the regime killed over 20 people and arrested thousands without due process just for protesting for their rights."

The State Department's annual human rights report, which is presented as a factual, country-by-country description of the situation on the ground, usually does not offer comparisons with past years.

But on Tehran, it says: "The government's human rights record remained extremely poor and worsened in several key areas."

As for North Korea, with which Trump is trying to negotiate a deal on denuclearisation, a reference in last year's report to "egregious" rights violations has been replaced with a damning, if somewhat more neutral, assessment.

It cites Pyongyang for "unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government; forced disappearances by the government; torture by authorities..."

Trump has repeatedly said he has a good relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

Rights experts consider Pyongyang one of the worst offenders in the world, but the Republican president barely speaks about rights violations when he talks about the North these days.

"The policy of this administration is to engage with other governments, regardless of their record, if doing so will further US interests," Pompeo writes in the report's preface.

On Saudi Arabia, while the report mentions the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which cast a shadow on US ties with its ally Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - considered by the US Senate to be behind the killing - is not mentioned by name.

The annual State Department report said The Washington Post columnist was killed by agents of the kingdom while he was inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year.

The report mentioned that the Saudi government "changed its story as facts came to light", after initially maintaining Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed.

Although the CIA has concluded the Crown Prince personally ordered Khashoggi's death, the Trump administration has avoided taking any serious action against its close Gulf ally.

The US rights report noted that Saudi Arabia has indicted 11 suspects but hasn't provided details on the investigation or who may have directed the operation. Five officials were also dismissed in connection to the killing.

"America is not covering up for murder," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in February, pledging that the United States would take action to ensure those responsible for Khashoggi's death were held accountable.

Days earlier, the Trump administration provoked anger among lawmakers after it failed to turn in its report on the Khashoggi killing to Congress.

This is the first annual human rights report issued by the State Department since Pompeo became secretary of state.

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