The State Department has told Congress that despite some improvements during 1977, repression and abuse of indiviual liberties are still widespread in most countries, including such staunch U.S. allies as Israel, Iran, South Korea and the Philippines.
Though the report said that Israel is within its national borders "a full-fledged parliamentary democracy" comparable to most Western democracies including the United States, it charges the Israelis with abuses of Arab rights in occupied Arab territories.
The report on Israel, though relatively nuld when compared to the human rights records of other countries, provoked a flurryof challenging press questions at the State Department yesterday.
The questions stemmed mainly from the coincidence of publication of the report on the day following Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's departure from the United States and Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan's arrival.
The report on Egypt, by contrast, was a highly optimistic assessment that praised Sadat for relaxing police-state tactics and asserted that "Egyptians are enjoying civil and political freedoms to an unprecedented degree."
However, a State Department spokesman, Tom Reston, denied "categorically" that the timing of the reports' release represented an administration pressure tactic against Israel.
In compliance with a 1976 law's specific instructions, the department delivered the reports on all countries receiving U.S. aid to Congress on Jan. 31. Congressional sources said yesterday's publication date was determined solely by the Printing Office was also to finish running the 426-page document off its presses.
Last night, the Israeli embassy here issued a statement noting that the report called Israel "a full-fledged parliamentary democracy whose standards are comparable to those of the United States and other western democracies."
The statement added: "Obviously the report notes the difference between those standards applied in Israel and those which security considerations force Israel to apply in the territories under its control. Nevertheless, in spite of those difficulties, the government and the people of Israel are trying to apply the highest standards and their own perception of human rights everywhere and to everybody."
Some government sources and human rights activists expressed concern that the heavy attention focused on the Israel report might detract from what they regard as the real purpose of the exercise - to present a composite picture of the global human rights situation and what it says about the Carter administration's controversial effort to make human rights concerns a major element of U.S. foreign policy.
Even the approach to the reports dres a disclaimer from the State Department yesterday. Reston cautioned that they should not be regarded as an "overall philosophical assessment" of the human rights scene or of the U.S. government's role in any of its recent successes or failures.
Under the 1976 law requiring the reports, both the administration and Congress are supposed to take rights abuses into account in allocating U.S. foreign aid. yet, it already has become known that the administration, when it presents its fiscal 1979 aid budget to Congress, will to cut off military aid to only one country - Nicaragua - critized in the reports.
Several countries that have figured prominently in rights controversies - Chile, South Africa, Uganda and the communist nations - are not described because they do not receive U.S. aid. Of the countries covered, the reports include these points about different regions:
The Middle East and South Asia: Israel's tactics in the occupied lands are found to include "the use of extreme physical and psychological pressures during interrogation," using excessive force to quell demonstrations, searching the homes of Arabs without warrants and occasionally expelling Arabs suspected of terrorist involvement.
Elsewhere in the region, the reports cite evidence of repression and allegations of mistreatment in Morocco, Iran, Syria Pakistan and Bangladesh However, they add, in some - notably Iran and Pakistan - conditions improved considerably during 1977.
The report on India says "human rights and democracy have been restored" in that country. Tunisia and Kuwait also are given good marks for respecting individual liberties.
East Asia and Pacific: The Phillippines government of President Ferdinard Marcos is charged with torturing political prisoners and of having extensive corruption. Similarly, South Korea, despite some improvements, is found to engage in widespread political repression, intimidation and imprisonment of political foes.
Elsewhere in the region, the reports find detentions without trial to be problems in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Conditions in Thailand are described as improved despite the continued authoritarian nature of the military regime there.
Africa: The reports find a general pattern throughout the continent of one party states or military dictatorships, where severe restrictions are placed on political activity and expression. That, the reports find, leads to frequent abuses, particulary arbitrary detentions of political dissidents.
This pattern, the reports says, is true even of countries like Tanzania "that talk a lot about human rights on the international scene." However, the reports note several countries - Botswana, Cape Verde, Gambia, Liberia, Mauritania and Upper Volta with good rights records.
Latin America: Allegations of widespread abuses, sometimes involving murder and torture, continue against such military dictatorships as Bolivia, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay and Haiti. The reports portray Uruguay as being particularly resistant to pressures for reform, but note some improvements in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti.
Europe: This is the area with the brighest record. The reports say respect for liberties remains high in the traditional democracies and note either a full restoration of rights or rapid movement in that direction in such former problem countries as Spain, Portugal, Greece and Turkey.