Tiananmen Square was not a singular event. In Ethiopia, Peru, Iraq, Sri Lanka, and numerous other countries civilians continue to be killed by governments acting outside the law, according to Amnesty International. Thousands perished this way in 1988, says the international human rights group's annual report.

In Burma, thousands were killed by riot police or soldiers during widespread protests against military rule.

In Somalia, torn by civil war, estimates of civilians killed by government forces range from 15,000 to 50,000.

In Peru, some 300 people disappeared after being arrested by government forces sweeping through special emergency zones.

War, civil or otherwise, is often the context of these killings. Civilians accused of supporting insurgents are often targets, as in Ethiopia, where government troops fighting guerrillas in Eritrea and Tigray reportedly have carried out mass executions.

Ethnic or tribal animosity can play a part. Soldiers from the dominant Tutsi tribe in Burundi reportedly massacred thousands of the more numerous but less powerful Hutu.

Torture unfortunately continues to play a role in extra-legal deaths. Amnesty says in 1988 prisoner deaths from torture occurred in Turkey, El Salvador, Indonesia, Iraq, China, Syria, and Burma.

As in Peru, nongovernment groups can contribute to the toll. Colombia, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka are among the nations where human rights abuses by insurgents or drug cartels have been reported.

While the level of massacres and assassinations has remained distressingly high throughout the 1980s, says Amnesty International, international awareness of the problem is up dramatically.

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