The US State Department's 2006 human rights report, released Tuesday, slammed Iran, singling it out from its Middle East neighbors in its summary of global human rights abuses. In the report's introduction, the State Department accuses the Iranian government of having "flagrantly violated freedom of speech and assembly, intensifying its crackdown again dissidents, journalists and reformers." Aside from Syria, the other Middle East countries mentioned in the introductory summary - Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan - received tempered criticism that noted efforts at progress. The harshest language was reserved for Iran. The report described the Islamic Republic's crackdown as "characterized by arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture, disappearance, the use of excessive force and the widespread denial of public trials." It also referred to the "widely condemned conference denying the existence of the Holocaust" Iran hosted and said the country "continued to flout domestic and international calls for responsible government in 2006 by supporting terrorist movements in Syria and Lebanon as well as calling for the destruction of a UN member state," Israel. Israel itself wasn't highlighted in the summary, nor were the Palestinians.
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The section on Israel assessed that "the government generally respected the human rights of its citizens," the same designation as last year. Similar problem areas were noted, however, including treatment of the Arab minority, discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews on status issues and the scourge of human trafficking.
When it came to treatment of Palestinians within Israel, the State Department document reported that some Palestinian inmates had been tortured, despite torture being banned under Israeli law. The findings came from complaints filed by "reputable NGOs," according to the human rights document.
While not referring to the specific charges of torture, Gerald Steinberg of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor criticized the report for accepting such charges "without additional attempts to verify the accuracy" of the information.
He also attacked the report for not considering the "context of terrorism" for some of the Israeli government decisions noted in the document, such as the law prohibiting Palestinians from joining their spouses in Israel.
Israeli officials have said the restriction was enacted because many Palestinians had used family reunification to enter the country to carry out terror attacks.
In the territories, the report devoted space to both Palestinian and Israeli actions, including the statement that "killings by Palestinian and Israeli security forces and by Israeli settlers and Palestinian militant groups remained a serious problem."
It also addressed abuses within the Palestinian Authority, including allegations of torture, lack of due process, and restrictions on freedom of the press imposed by Hamas.
In addition to research from NGOs, the report also relied on government, media, academic and judicial sources.