'Rights' review: minuses, pluses

Political dissidents who often used to be punished with long imprisonment now risk abduction and execution or murder by government forces in more than 30 countries, Amnesty International said.

The victims of government force included peasant families in El Salvador and Guatemala; members of political, religious and ethnic groups in Iraq, Iran and Ethiopia; and people in all walks of life in countries as far apart as Afghanistan, Chile, and the Philippines, the London-based human rights organization said in its 408-page annual report.

In the United States, Amnestry said that "police brutality, especially toward . . . ethnic minorities, is widespread and severe, resulting in death in many cases. Although it is probably not due to official policy, it is undoubtably able to occur so frequently because it is officially tolerated."

In other Western countries, legal safeguards for defendants were suspended in several cases relating to state security, the report said.

In the Soviet Union, dissenters were being punished by the use of restrictive laws, labor camps, and intemment in psychiatric hospitals.

In other Eastern bloc countries, one example of violation was the jailing of people who peacefully tried to emigrate.

The report also noted that the death penalty was being exacted in parts of the United States and in Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Cuba.

Refugees and illegal immigrants were being ill treated in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and the United States, it said.

Some governments and peoples were, however, becoming more conscious of the need to defend human rights, Amnesty said. Positive signs of this development included the overthrow of tyrannical governments in three countries in Africa and one in Latin America.

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