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U.S. Human Rights Report Zeroes in on Arab Countries

The human rights situation in Jordan and Saudi Arabia did not undergo any change in 1982, according to Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Abrams was commenting by way of explaining the 1,323-page State Department’s annual report on the human rights situation throughout the world which was made public Tuesday.

The report depicts Jordan as a constitutional monarchy in which King Hussein has all the power. It notes that because of tension between Palestinian refugees and “native trans-Jordanians” the country has been under marital law since 1970.”The government resorts to authoritarian measures sparingly, however,” the report stresses.

Saudi Arabia is described as “a traditional family monarchy” in which “the legitimacy of the regime rests upon its adherence to and defense of Islam, particularly the austere Saudi interpretation of the Sunni tradition.” Saudi’s practices are viewed in light of this explanation and situations which might be seen as abuses elsewhere are treated benignly in the report.

SITUATION IN EGYPT

Egypt is described as a republic with “a strong presidency.” While it is not “a pure parliamentary democracy” since President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party has an overwhelming majority in Parliament, “individual members can and do sharply criticize the regime,” according to the report.

The report credits Mubarak with loosening restrictions imposed by his predecessor, Anwar Sadat — allowing opposition papers to publish and freeing prisoners — but notes that “the authorities have shown a readiness to arrest and imprison Islamic extremists whom they regard as an immediate Iranian-style threat to Egyptian society and government.”

While Egypt is an Islamic state, freedom of religion is allowed, the report points out. “Egypt’s tiny Jewish community is not harassed.”

But, in Iraq, where the report says it is believed there are fewer than 300 Jews, “the extent of the community’s religious activity and other liberties is not known.” In Syria, the Jewish community of some 3,500-4,000 people “exists under close governmental scrutiny and is denied political participation. However, Jewish religious practices are observed without harassment.”

A WARNING TO RUMANIA

Abrams said that conditions have also worsened in the Soviet Union and East Europe. He said it is “very clear” that if Rumania goes ahead with its education tax on would-be emigrants, the U.S. can no longer extend most favored nation status to it. He said the Administration would have no choice since U.S. law prohibits MFN to countries restricting emigration.

State Department Deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said Tuesday that the Rumanian government has not confirmed that it has imposed the tax. But he said reports have come from families of emigrants that the tax was levied.

On the Soviet Union, the report noted an “escalation” last year of the campaign to repress dissent and said the regime began “threatening leading Jewish ‘refuseniks’ with imprisonment if they continue to maintain contacts with foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists.”

The report criticizes the conditions of Soviet prisons and particularly notes that Anatoly Shcharansky started a hunger strike last September “to protest the refusal of Soviet authorities to allow him contact with the outside world.”

There have been numerous reports of instances of discrimination against Jews, such as the denial of access to higher education and the professions, and at least II cases of the revocation of higher degrees of Jews have occurred, the report notes.

It adds that this means the end of a career and usually the loss of a job and income. “Occasional attacks on Zionism in the media appear intended to arouse anti-Semitic feelings among the population,” the report adds.

The report notes that emigration procedures from the USSR are “cumbersome and extensive.” It also notes that only 2,688 Jews were granted visas in 1982 and visas for ethnic Germans and Armenians also declined.

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IN ARGENTINA

The report on Argentina is also of interest. The report claims “significant expansion of civil and political liberties” in 1982. At the same time, it notes, “incidents of violence occurred in 1982 which many believe to have been provoked by elements linked to the state security organizations but operating without the sanction of the government.”

As for Argentina’s Jewish community, estimated at 300,000-450,000, “It practices its religion without official restraint,” the report states. “It represents an important part of the country’s economic and cultural life, and the government maintains good relations with the community. There is no evidence of an official policy of anti-Semitism.”

The report adds that “occasional incidents” occur, such as the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in February 1982. “The government strongly condemned the vandalism, with President Galieri’s personal denunciation given wide distribution by all the news media. Jewish community leaders called the government’s repudiation of anti-Semitism ‘unprecedented’ in its forcefullness.”

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