Posts Tagged ‘State Department human rights reports’

U.S. State Department Releases “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011″ (with video)

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Today, May 24, 2012, three months after the statutory deadline of February 25, the State Department finally released its annual report on the human rights situations in the countries of the world.

The U.S. Department of State “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011″ are found here.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks at the presentation of the reports are found here.

A video of Secretary Clinton’s remarks and the following briefing and question and answer session with Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael H. Posner, is found on C-Span here.

In her written preface to the reports, Secretary Clinton stated the following:

Secretary’s Preface

The world changed immeasurably over the course of 2011. Across the Middle East, North Africa, and far beyond, citizens stood up to demand respect for human dignity, more promising economic opportunities, greater political liberties, and a say in their own future. Often they faced tremendous odds and endured violent responses from their governments. The resulting upheavals are still unfolding today in places like Syria, where the regime has brutalized its own people. In Burma, after years of repression, the government has taken preliminary steps to allow reforms to begin. This year’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices chronicle these dramatic changes and the stories of the people defending human rights in almost 200 countries around the world.

Congress mandated these country reports more than three decades ago to help guide lawmakers’ decisions on foreign military and economic aid, but they have evolved into something more. Today, governments, intergovernmental organizations, scholars, journalists, activists, and others around the world rely on these reports as an essential update on human rights conditions around the world – where we have seen progress, where progress has come too slowly or at great cost, and all too often, where it has been rolled back.

Our reports are founded on the simple truth at the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere. Universal human rights include the right of citizens to assemble peacefully and to seek to reform or change their governments, a central theme around the world in 2011. As President Obama has said, “History offers a clear verdict: Governments that respect the will of their own people, that govern by consent and not coercion, are more prosperous, they are more stable, and more successful than governments that do not.”

In my travels around the world as Secretary of State, I have met many individuals who put their lives on the line to advance the cause of human rights and justice. In ways small and large, they hold their governments accountable for upholding universal human rights. Their courage and commitment to peaceful reform are an inspiration. This report recognizes their bravery and should serve as a reminder: The United States stands with all those who seek to advance human dignity, and we will continue to shine the light of international attention on their efforts.

These reports are part of our broad commitment to promote human rights. Every day, officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and many other government agencies devote themselves to advancing human rights as a priority of U.S. foreign policy. They champion our values in every country of the world and stand up for the inherent rights and freedoms of all people. I am honored to work alongside them, and I thank them for their contributions to this report.

On behalf of all of them, and everyone around the world working to protect human rights, I hereby transmit the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2011 to the United States Congress.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Following her remarks, Secretary Clinton introduced Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, who then conducted a special briefing on the reports prepared under the supervision of his office. His remarks, and the transcript of the question and answer session which followed them, are found here.

A video containing Secretary Clinton’s remarks, Assistant Secretary Michael H. Posner remarks and his question and answer session is found on C-SPAN here.

The individual country reports are available on the State Department website.

The report covers 199 countries and territories, according to Assistant Secretary Posner.

The Trenchant Observer

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For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.

Stop the UN farce!—Obama’s Debacle in Syria — Update #37 (May 15)

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Today al-Assad’s forces reportedly killed 20 demonstrators in Khan Sheikhoun as UN monitors looked on.

See

Neil MacFarquhar and Hwaida Saad (Beirut), “U.N. Team Sees Clash Between Syrian Protesters and Soldiers,” New York Times, May 15, 2012.

They report the following:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A convoy of unarmed United Nations monitors got caught up in a violent confrontation between protesters and Syrian government forces on Tuesday, with activist organizations putting the casualty toll at around 20 killed and dozens wounded.

The United Nations monitors escaped unscathed, but three of their four vehicles were damaged by some kind of explosive device, said a statement from Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman for Kofi Annan, the United Nations and Arab League special envoy for Syria.

Eyewitnesses reached via Skype in Khan Sheikhoun, the town in the embattled northwestern province of Idlib where the confrontation took place, said that a large crowd had turned out for the funeral of a man killed by government forces two days earlier near Hama.

Meanwhile, there were clear signs that the government was manipulating the vote results from the parliamentary elections held on May 7. MacFarquhar and Saad note, in the same article,

“In Damascus, the government announced delayed results from the May 7 election for seats in Parliament, emphasizing what it said was a participation rate that exceeded 51 percent. But in broadcasting the results live on state television, Judge Khalaf al-Azzawi, the chairman of the higher committee for elections, avoided questions about the number of voters in embattled provinces like Homs or Idlib and refused to characterize the political affiliation of the new members.”

Free association: This delay is not much of a surprise as no one expected the elections to be honest in the first place.

But the fact that over a week has passed since the elections does bring to mind the great delay that has occurred with the publication of the State Department human rights reports, which by law were due by February 25.

Could this enormous delay be due to the fact that the Obama administration is massaging the reports for political reasons, contrary to the law’s intent?

On the basis of what we know, one must assume that this is the case. The House and Senate foreign relations committess should immediately convoke hearings for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to offer her excuses and explanations.

These reports are relevant to critical decision making by governments around the world. Their publication should not be delayed for another day.

What will it take for the international community to recognize that by sending more monitors to Syria, it is adding to Bashar al-Assad’s panoply of human shields? Those shields protect him from military action to force him to halt the killing. They also short-circuit the thinking processes of the leaders of all countries who still–at this late date–support the Security Council’s 6-point peace plan.

It is time to dismantle the Kofi Annan 6-point peace plan. UNSMIS should be put into lockdown until al-Assad complies with the conditions in the peace plan, and withdrawn if he doesn’t.

How can this be achieved?

USMIS can be stopped the same way the Arab peace monitor mission was stopped–by countries withdrawing their members, and refusing to send any additional members to the delegation. When the UNSMIS mission comes up for an extension at the end of 90 days, it should be blocked by a majority of the Security Council.

In over 60 years of peace observation and peacekeeping missions, the United Nations has never embarked on a mission so contrary to common sense, so contrary to analysis of the facts of the ground, and so devoid of promise. The mission should be aborted, immediately.

There is no peace to be monitored. A ceasefire, if it comes, will come as a result of a decision or decisions by al-Assad and his entourage, and not one day before.

The only thing that is likely to push the Syrian Dictator and his henchmen to reach such a decision is a credible threat of military intervention by outside powers, and the execution of that threat if the threat does not suffice.

Civilized nations should prepare for such military action at once.

The Trenchant Observer

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www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

For links to other articles by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then consult the information in the bottom right hand corner of the home page. The Articles on Syria page can also be found here.