WASHINGTON, June 25 (Reuters) - The United States released a long-delayed annual human rights report on Thursday, with strong words for countries like Iran, Cuba, Myanmar and Vietnam, even as it seeks to improve relations with them.
Though the United States and other world powers are attempting to reach a nuclear deal with Iran by June 30, the State Department report criticized Tehran for having the second-highest execution rate in the world "after legal proceedings that frequently didn't respect Iran's own constitutional guarantee to due process."
It said the most significant human rights problems in Iran were severe restrictions on freedom of expression, religion and on the media, while people were also arbitrarily and unlawfully detained, tortured, or killed.
On Cuba, the State Department said that while Havana had largely eased travel restrictions in January, the government still denied passport requests for certain opposition figures, or harassed them upon their return to the country.
The U.S. eased travel restrictions as part of a historic agreement in December between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, aimed at normalizing ties between the two former Cold War rivals.
The report expressed concern over violence, intimidation, and detentions used to prevent free expression and peaceful assembly. It said Cuba did not respect freedom of speech and press, severely restricted internet access, and maintained a monopoly on media outlets.
In Russia, the State Department said the political system was becoming "increasingly authoritarian" and Moscow had passed new measures to suppress dissent.
The report highlighted abuses in countries in Asia with which the United States has been working hard to improve relations, namely Myanmar and Vietnam, as well as in U.S. treaty ally, Thailand, where the military took power in a coup in May 2014.
It said abuses of minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar's Rakhine State remained "severely troubling" despite a "broader trend of progress since 2011."
The report pointed to "severe" restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and the media in Thailand, and said that while Vietnam had amended its constitution to include a chapter on human rights, the government had yet to enact necessary implementing legislation.
The report has been delayed since February. U.S. officials have denied that the delay was due to concerns that it could affect negotiations with Iran on a nuclear deal and with Cuba on restoring diplomatic ties.
Additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Bernadette Baum