Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan are among the world's most repressive regimes, according to the US-based independent advocacy group, Freedom House.
In a report to the UN Human Rights Commission session underway in Geneva, the group has listed 16 countries and three territories it considers as the worst offenders in terms of civil liberties and human rights - among them China, Libya, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
The report said that last year, President Isayas Afewerki of Eritrea continued the "repressive policy of allowing no opposition or independent organisations in the political or civil sphere". It said the ruling Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) - the sole permitted party - had "taken significant steps backwards" rather than moving towards the creation of a democratic political system.
"Arbitrary arrest and detention are problems," the report said. "The government has maintained a hostile attitude towards civil society and has refused international assistance designed to support the development of pluralism in society."
It added that Eritrea's political culture "places priority on group interests over those of the individual", noting that the policy had been forged by years of struggle against outside occupiers and "austere attachment" to Marxist principles.
The government remained in control of all media outlets.
On a scale of 1-7 - with 7 the worst figure - the report awarded 7 for political rights, and 6 for civil liberties.
Somalia, the report said, remained wracked by violence and insecurity in 2002. It said many violations were linked to banditry, and human rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings, torture, beatings and arbitrary detention by the various armed factions remained a problem.
"Although more than 80 percent of Somalis share a common ethnic heritage, religion and nomadic-influenced culture, discrimination is widespread," the report said.
"Clans exclude one another from participation on social and political life. Minority clans are harassed, intimidated and abused by armed gunmen."
The report noted that the self-declared republic of Somaliland in the northwest was "far more cohesive" than the rest of Somalia, "although reports of some human rights abuses persist".
The report gave 6 for political rights and 7 for civil liberties.
The report noted some breakthrough in the peace process between the Sudanese government and rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), but said serious human rights abuses by nearly every faction involved in the civil war had been reported.
It said slavery and religious persecution were practised by the government, as well as abductions and forced servitude by the SPLA.
"Arbitrary arrest, detention and torture are widespread, and security forces act with impunity," the report stated. "Prison conditions do not meet international standards."
It noted that while press freedom had improved, journalists practised self-censorship to avoid harassment, arrest and closure of their publications.
The report gave 7 for both political rights and civil liberties.
[Click here for further details: www.freedomhouse.org]
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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