"These trends further confirm the need to combine diplomacy with creative strategies that can help to develop healthy political systems and support civil society," the report said.

Clinton criticism

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, in presenting the report on Wednesday, said the US was also aware of scrutiny of the US's own rights record, particularly over Guantanamo and US government policies on detention and interrogation.

"I am looking for results [and] we will seek to live up to our ideals on American soil," she said.

Clinton was criticised last week for saying that the issue of human rights in China "can't interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis and the security crisis" during a visit to the country.

Earlier this month China issued its own first human rights report to the UN Human Rights Council, but was criticised by human rights groups for omitting reports of serious rights abuses in Tibet and monist ethnic groups.

The administration of Barack Obama, the US president, has moved to shut Guantanamo and end the harsh interrogations of prisoners held there.

But Gabor Rona, the international legal director of Human Rights First, told Al Jazeera questions over US human rights policies remained.

"There are still questions over whether or not there will be past accountability for past [US rights] violations and whether or not victims of torture policies will be able to use United States courts to gain the redress they are entitled to under international law."

Nations condemned

Zimbabwe was condemned for failing to
act on its economic crisis [EPA]
The state department report, which documents the human rights situation in almost 200 countries across the world, also condemned Zimbabwe for "systematic abuse of human rights".

The report said supporters of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, unleashed a "campaign of terror" following the country's elections last March, with hundreds of opposition supporters had been tortured, killed or "disappeared".

It also condemned Zimbabwe for worsening its own humanitarian crisis by failing to act on widespread hunger, economic collapse and the current cholera epidemic, which has killed thousands.

Burma, formerly known as Myanmar, was also strongly criticised for "severe" human rights abuses, including the brutal repression of opposition activists by the ruling military government and for failing to permit aid into the nation following a devastating cyclone last year.

The report accused Russia of a "negative trajectory" on rights and widespread abuses and said the war with Georgia last summer resulted in heavy civilian casualties.

On Pakistan, a key US ally in the so-called war on terror, the report said that although overall rights had improved the country still experienced major problems in 2008 with extrajudicial killings, torture and disappearances.

And on Sudan, the report warned that civilians continued to suffer from the effects of genocide and accused the government of continuing to collaborate with janjawid fighters to bomb and destroy villages, killing or displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Other countries criticised in the report included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Somalia and Iraq.