US rights group says Iraq becoming 'police state'

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BAGHDAD (AP) -- An international human rights group says Iraq's Shiite-led government has cracked down harshly on dissent during the past year of Arab Spring uprisings, turning the country into a "budding police state" as autocratic regimes crumbled elsewhere in the region.

Human Rights Watch says in its World Report 2012, which covers 2011, that Iraq is slipping back into authoritarianism as security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists, torture detainees and intimidate activists.

The New York-based group says that the U.S. failed to leave behind a stable democracy in Iraq when American soldiers exited nine years after toppling the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein.