US warns of global attack on freedom, slams some allies

The report, compiled on a country-by-country basis by US diplomats, has no legal implications for US policy

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Governments around the world are cracking down on basic freedoms, the United States warned Wednesday, in a report that did not spare key US allies like Turkey and Egypt.

Secretary of State John Kerry, writing the preface to his department’s annual human rights report, said attacks on democratic values point to a “global governance crisis.”

“In every part of the world, we see an accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors to close the space for civil society, to stifle media and Internet freedom, to marginalize opposition voices, and in the most extreme cases, to kill people or drive them from their homes,” he said.

The report, compiled on a country-by-country basis by US diplomats, has no legal implications for US policy and a critical write up does not compel Washington to cut ties or military aid to rights abusers or to impose sanctions upon them.

But Kerry argued that the detailed report -- the 40th his department has produced -- would strengthen US determination to promote what he called “fundamental freedoms” and to support those groups Washington sees as human rights defenders.

“Some look at these events and fear democracy is in retreat,” he said. “In fact, they are a reaction to the advance of democratic ideals, to rising demands of people from every culture and region for governments that answer to them.”

As might be expected, the report is critical of US rivals like Russia and China -- where it says civil rights groups face increasing repression -- and of foes like Iran and North Korea, where citizens face extrajudicial killings and torture.

But it also paints a grim picture of the state of play in some allied countries, including NATO member Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has cracked down on opposition media and arrested several leading journalists.

“The government has used anti-terror laws as well as a law against insulting the president to stifle legitimate political discourse and investigative journalism,” the report says.

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