Justice watch: keeping an eye on the law

Thousands in forced labor in u.s.

SAN FRANCISCO - At any given time, some 10,000 people in the United States are forced to work against their will under threat of violence, a new report found.

"Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States," released last week by the Human Rights Center at University of California, Berkeley, and a nonprofit group called Free the Slaves, was based on interviews with social-service providers, government officials, and labor advocates, as well as newspaper stories published from 1998 to 2003 that described incidents of forced labor.

Researchers found that almost half of forced laborers work in prostitution or the sex industry, close to one-third are domestic workers, and one in 10 works in agriculture. And most are concentrated in states with large immigrant populations like California, Florida, New York, and Texas. Most victims were from China, Mexico, and Vietnam.

Smaller number of Gun Buys Blocked

WASHINGTON - About 1.6 percent of applications for gun purchases, or 126,000, were rejected last year by the nation's background check system, according to Justice Department figures.

The number of rejections was slightly below the 2002 level and continued a decline seen in recent years in the denial rate, the Bureau of Justice Statistics said in a new report.

The bureau attributed the decline to more extensive background checks - giving pause to potential purchasers who know they would be prohibited from getting their hands on a gun. The top reason for rejections was a felony conviction or indictment.

Turkey's human rights record better

BRUSSELS - Turkey's human rights record has shown "significant improvement" due to efforts to ready itself for membership in the European Union, Amnesty International's EU office said Monday.

Dick Oosting, head of the human rights group's EU office, said that while there was still evidence of torture and other serious human rights offenses, the situation was getting better. "Systematic torture" by government or other authorities had stopped, he said.

However, he said "more had to be done" by Ankara to ensure that democratic reforms, including human rights improvements, were implemented correctly. In a recent report, Amnesty International said reforms were still needed, warning that police have resorted to new torture tactics that leave no visible signs, such as depriving prisoners of food, threatening them with death, or spraying them with water.

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