US Department of State Country Reports need to be more comprehensive

Amnesty International Media Statement
Thursday, March 11, 2010

Amnesty International Says DOS Country Reports Need to Be More Comprehensive
Human rights organization welcomes expanded reporting on discrimination and press freedom, but says that reports fail to provide a comprehensive assessment of economic, social, and cultural rights.

(Washington, DC) – Larry Cox, Amnesty International USA executive director, issued the following statement in response to today’s U.S. Department of State’s (DOS) release of its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:

“Amnesty International welcomes the Obama administration’s first full contribution to assess the human rights performance of governments around the world, and in particular, the Country Reports’ expanded coverage of press freedoms and discrimination against vulnerable groups.

“However, for a thorough assessment of global human rights, the Country Reports should be more comprehensive and include all rights, not only civil and political, but also economic, social, and cultural rights. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the document from which these reports take their inspiration, includes all of the above.

“Just a few months ago, in setting out the Obama administration’s human rights agenda for the 21st Century, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly stated that to make human rights a reality, people must be free not only from the oppression of tyranny’ but also from the oppression of want. She further noted that the measure of success should be whether people around the world are better able to enjoy these rights as a result of the United States’ actions.

“Change will require more than just rhetoric. Taking a more comprehensive approach to the Country Reports’ assessments can and should be the first step in making these powerful words a reality in U.S foreign policy.

“Over the years, the Country Reports have generally continued to improve in terms of quality and utility. The expanded coverage includes abuses affecting women, disabled persons, children, labor activists, religious leaders and groups, indigenous populations, refugees and internally-displaced persons and people discriminated against because of their orientation or their HIV status.

“It is precisely because the Country Reports can be an effective tool in holding governments accountable that Amnesty International urges the State Department to take an even more comprehensive approach in the reports’ assessment.

“Reports’ findings should be formally integrated into decision-making processes that incorporate respect for human rights as a criterion.

“The Country Reports provide hard-hitting information about deplorable conditions. But words alone are not enough. Skeptics will dismiss the reports as rhetoric and hypocrisy, as the Obama administration has not held anyone accountable for the human rights abuses committed by U.S. agents in the war on terror. It is more shocking to read the horrific record of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of individuals held by allies of the United States in the war on terror, knowing that the U.S. government has sent people to those countries for interrogation through its extraordinary renditions program.

“In November, the United States will have an opportunity to review its own human rights record through the U.N. Human Rights Council’s country review mechanism, known as the Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty International commends the State Department for organizing consultation sessions throughout the country in advance of submitting the United States’ self-assessment.”

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