Amnesty International says the governments of one-third of the world's nations torture their citizens. It also reported the use of death squads is again on the rise in Latin America.
In a survey of 135 nations, the human rights organization also said people in 80 countries are jailed for speaking their minds or for political or religious beliefs.The review by Amnesty, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977, covered abuses in the calendar year 1987.
"In at least a third of the world's nations, men, women and even children are tortured," Amnesty said. "In scores of countries governments pursue their goals by kidnapping and murdering their own citizens."
The group said it "documents and publicizes this ugly picture of what governments around the world are doing to their citizens 40 years after the Proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for one reason only - to convince more people that something must be done to stop it."
The report noted that this year is the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "On 10 December 1948, all the members of the United Nations declared for the first time in history that every human being has inalienable rights."
Amnesty said while all U.N. member states formally subscribe to the declaration, "many of them reveal, by their actions, that they consider the ideas and ideals it enshrines as `subversive."'
The report said that in Latin America there appeared to be increased use of clandestine groups, sometimes called death squads, linked to government forces in a campaign to terrorize the political opposition or common criminals.
Amnesty said abuses by such groups continued in several countries, including El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil and Chile, and reports indicated similar groups had emerged in countries previously unaffected, such as Panama.