The State Department made public yesterday a worldwide survey of human rights that, in addition to predictably harsh attacks on abuses in the Soviet Union and other communist countries, also criticized such old or potentially new U.S. allies as Pakistan, Argentina, Morocco and Israel.
For the first time, the annual report to Congress is not restricted to countries receiving U.S. aid. Instead, under new rules mandated by Congress, the 854-page survey covers all of the world's 154 independent nations.
That has focused special attention on the report as a potential indicator of how the Carter administration's controversial championing of human rights may be affected by the twin crises in Iran and Afghanistan and the administration's top-priority effort to rally resistance to Soviet moves in the Persian Gulf region.
Some rights advocates have expressed concern that, in the atmosphere of newly heightened East-West tensions, the administration might be tempted to use its human rights policy as a propaganda vehicle for attacking the Soviets or to soft-pedal U.S. pressures on repressive regimes whose support is being solicited by Washington.
These factors are known to have caused some clashes between factions in the State Department, particularly in regard to reports on such countries as Argentina, Israel and Pakistan. But, while the final products are known to reflect some compromises, the country-by-country picture appears in general accord with the assessments of private individuals and organizations concerned with human rights conditions.
In respect to the Soviet Union, which is covered for the first time, the report noted that a rising level of dissent has caused Soviet authorities to "behave as though they believe these activists represent a serious threat to the regime."
Although it says Soviet dissenters are "subject to constant harassment and imprisonment," the report notes that "torture and physical abuse . . . appear to have become less prevalent in the 1970s." It adds, though, that there are still an estimated 10,000 political prisoners in the Soviet Union and that they are kept under conditions that sometimes include torture or forced treatment with painful drugs in mental hospitals.
The hardest indictment of the Soviet Union is contained in the report on Afghanistan.It charges that Moscow, through its domination of previous Afghan governments and more overtly through its invasion in December, has created a situation of total "disregard for basic human rights."
The report says, "Torture, arbitrary arrest, extended and unexplained imprisonment and execution became commonplace" under the previous Soviet-influenced regimes of Noor Mohammed Taraki and Hafizullah Amin. It adds, "Indications are that these policies will continue under the new regime of Babrak Karmal," who was installed as president following the Dec. 27 Soviet invasion.
"According to recent reports," it continues, "the Soviets may be employing lethal chemical agenst as well as incendiary devices in their efforts to suppress the Afghan resistance."
By contrast, the department presents a mixed picture of Afghanistan's neighbor, Pakistan, where the United States now is trying to establish close ties with the military regime of President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq.
It notes the execution of deposed former president Ali Bhuto and adds that Pakistan still engages in traditional Islamic punishments such as flogging. But it also says reports of torture have declined, and it takes issue with Amnesty International's contention that the Bia regime is holding "several thousand" political prisoners.
"The Department of State believes there are considerably fewer than a thousand individuals still detained on grounds which properly might be described as political," the report says. It also notes that Pakistan is providing refuge for almost 50,000 Afghans "fleeing political and religious persecution" on their side of the border.
In Iran, where 50 Americans are being held hostage with the approval of the revolutionary government, the report pictures repressive policies of deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi being succeeded by a different set of rights abuses.
Instead of torture by the shah's secret police, this year's report talks of arbitrary arrests an dinvasions of people's homes by revolutionary authorities and summary late-night trials without due process that have resulted in more than 700 executions and imprisonment of as many as 15,000 Iranians.
It also describes persecution of religious minorities like the Bahai sect and harassment of groups opposed to the ideas of Iran's principal leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But, the report adds, by year's end the assertion of greater central government control throughout Iran gave signs that some of the abuses were being ended.
In regard to Israel, another country that has been at the center of controversies over human rights, the report, as in past years, lauds a high degree of democracy and respect for individual rights within Israel proper, while sharply criticizing the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Last year, the report on Israel drew considerable public attention because of a Washington Post article quoting cables from a former State Department officer in Jerusalem saying Israeli authorities may have systematically mistreated Palestinians. The report itself said "instances of mistreatment" might have occurred, but State Department officials said there was no evidence that they were condoned as official Israel policy.
The current report, while noting that allegations of torture and degrading treatment of Arab suspects persist, stresses that such practices are against Israeli law, that official reaction to such allegations "has been vigorous and prompt," and that in some cases investigation has resulted in Israeli perpetrators being prosecuted or otherwise punished.
The report also says the current Israeli government's policy of establishing non-military settlements in the occupied territories "had adversely affected the livelihood of some Arab residents, particularly as a result of the taking of land."
The Israeli settlements, the report continues, have in some cases overburdened the water supplies, causing "Arab wells to dry up and threatening long-term detrimental effects on Arab agriculture and livestock."
In response to Israeli's assertions that its actions in the occupied territories are necessary for security reasons, the report concludes: "This dichotomy poses a dilemma that will probably be resolved only in the context of a final peace settlement between Israel and its neighbors."
Another of this year's reports that aroused considerable advance interest involves Argentina, which has been criticized by many rights organizations but which also is being wooed by Washington to support the partial grain embargo against the Soviet Union.
Some U.S. officials reportedly sought to go easy on Argentina's military regime as a means of helping to gain this support. However, the report notes the disappearance it recent years of as many as 10,000 of the regime's enemies and evidence of "systematic use" against suspected leftists of summary execution, torture and imprisonment without due process.
It does add, though, that the incidence of disappearance and other abuses has "declined significantly" since late 1978, and it says this appears related to the rightist government's successes in wiping out leftist opposition.
In terms of specific geographic regions, the report also made these findings:
Far East: Communist regimes in Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea are among the most violently repressive. "Nowhere in the world are human rights more beleaguered than in Cambodia," the report says of the plight of the thousands caught in Vietnamese-Cambodian power struggles.
The report describes China, which has been forgoing closer ties with the United States, "as a less oppressive place in which to live that it was three years ago." It also says conditions in South Korea, another U.S. ally, have improved since the October assassination of President Park Chung Hee, although censorship and crackdowns on political dissent continue.
Middle East and North Africa: The report found continuing strong patterns of rights violations in Moroco, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria and improvements in Egypt and Saudi Arabia although they remain under autocratic rule.
Sub-Sahara Africa: 1979 overthrows of brutal dictatorships in Uganda, the Central African Republic and Equatorial Guinea greatly improved the situation in that region, the report found. It added, though, that abuses still continue in many countries and that blacks and coloreds are still severely repressed by the white minority in South Africa.
Latin America: The survey found a general trend of improvements, with reports of abuses diminishing in communist Cuba and rightist Chile. In Nicaragua, where leftist Sandinistas have deposed the dictatorship of former president Anastasio Somaza, the report finds a mixed pattern of some expanded freedoms, coupled with detention of former Somoza followers and, in the early days of the revolution, some summary executions.
Europe: The report found West European governments trying hard to protect human rights, although problems of terrorism such as those encountered by Britain in Northern Ireland have resulted in some controversial practices. In communist Eastern Europe, the report said, tightly repressive policies on the Soviet model continue to be the norm.