Human Rights Watch condemns Syria inaction, US spying in annual report

A Syrian man holds his nine year-old son, wounded by shrapnel, outside a field hospital on November 19, 2012, in the town of Maaret Al-Numan in southern Idlib province.

Human Rights Watch slammed international powers for not doing more in Syria and sharply criticized America's “virtually unchecked mass electronic surveillance” in a report released Tuesday.

The 667-page annual report highlights key human rights issues in 90 countries.

Kenneth Roth, the New York-based advocacy group's executive director, presented the findings at a press conference in Berlin.

Here are some of the key points:

Syria

Human Rights Watch blasted the international community for failing to protect citizens in Syria after nearly three years of a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

It accused Western powers, in particular, of turning a blind eye to recent atrocities to avoid endangering upcoming peace talks in Geneva.

Roth called for an end to indiscriminate killings of Syrian civilians and the opening of Syria's borders to humanitarian aid.

“We cannot afford to wait for the distant prospect of a peace accord before the killing of 5,000 Syrians a month comes to an end," he said.

United States

President Barack Obama came under harsh criticism for his record on national security issues, particularly NSA surveillance programs brought to light by Edward Snowden last June.

The group expressed concern that governments with poor human rights records may try to follow in America's footsteps, using the scandal to "force user data to stay within their own borders, setting up the potential for increased internet censorship."

Human Rights Watch also slammed Obama for US drone killings and the continued existence of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

Egypt

HRW's report called Egypt the "most glaring" example of "abusive majoritarianism."

It criticized both Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically-elected president deposed by the military last summer, and the interim government of General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

"For the second time since the fall of (former leader Hosni) Mubarak in February 2011, a government is in power with little apparent inclination to limit itself by respecting basic rights," the report stated.

Russia

Human Rights Watch dismissed President Vladimir Putin's recent release of punk rockers Pussy Riot and dissident Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, calling the moves nothing more than attempts to avoid international scrutiny ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

It also highlighted growing "homophobic rhetoric, including by officials, and rising homophobic violence," as well as the law passed last year that bans even the discussion of homosexuality within earshot of children.