U.S. Rights Report
Should Include U.S. Abuses
ANDRES OPPENHEIMER / Knight Ridder Newspapers / Salt Lake Tribune 13mar2006
[More on US Torture]
US State Dept
The following links are at US State Dept. website
source: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/ 14mar2006
If you thought you would never read anything positive about Venezuela's radical leftist President Hugo Chavez in this column, you were wrong. Last week, when I read Venezuela's reaction to the U.S. annual report on human rights violations around the world, I found myself nodding in agreement.
Granted, the Chavez government's description of the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights around the globe was characteristically overstated.
It said the document was worth "toilet paper," and suggested that the United States is the world's biggest rights abuser. In fact, compared to Venezuela and its closest ally, Cuba, the United States is an icon of respect for fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.
But the Chavez regime, alongside several other governments, was right in questioning the Bush administration's moral authority to judge other countries' human rights record without even mentioning its own abuses in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, or other outposts of its war on terrorism.
The State Department's annual report on the human rights situation in 196 countries, which has been published each year since 1977, is largely focused on the Middle East, China and Africa. But it includes Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia among the world's countries with the worst human rights violations. Among the report's Latin American highlights:
-Cuba: It said that, in addition to the absence of citizens' rights, there are at least 333 political prisoners in Cuba. It reported "beatings and abuse of detainees - carried out with impunity; transfers of mentally healthy prisoners to psychiatric facilities for political reasons" and "frequent harassment of political opponents by government-recruited mobs."
It said the Cuban government's neighborhood watch committees, officially known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, "report on suspicious activity, including conspicuous consumption, unauthorized meetings, including with foreigners, and defiant attitudes toward the government and the revolution."
-Venezuela: It said "politicization of the judiciary, restrictions on the media, and harassment of the political opposition continued to characterize the human rights situation."
It added that "the government used the justice system selectively against the political opposition and implementation of a 2004 media law threatened to limit press freedom."
-Colombia: It said the government's respect for human rights "continued to improve," but added that "all actors in the internal armed conflict committed human rights violations. The majority of violations were committed by illegal armed groups."
-Mexico: It said that "the government generally respected and promoted human rights at the national level. However, violations persisted at the state and local level." It listed several specific cases of claims of police torture nationwide, and violence against women in Ciudad Juarez.
-In Brazil, Argentina and Peru, the governments generally respected human rights, but there were numerous instances of killings and brutality by police and prison officials, and arbitrary arrests. In these countries and others, state governments often abuse human rights with impunity, it said.
Virtually all Latin American countries either condemned the report, or shrugged it off as a U.S. extravaganza. Many journalists and politicians described the U.S. State Department report as a monument to U.S. political arrogance, and a show of hypocrisy by a country that tortured prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, mistreated detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, and denied fair trials to many suspects of terrorism.
My opinion: Unlike Venezuela's Chavez, or the Chinese government, I don't think it's wrong for the United States to do a report on other countries' human rights abuses. On the contrary. Those who cry intervention in their countries' internal affairs are just using an outdated interpretation of national sovereignty to justify their abuses of power.
In fact, all countries should be doing similar reports, denouncing human rights violations wherever they take place. But what doesn't make sense is to lash out against everybody else, and not say a word about yourself.
The State Department's annual report should at least include an addendum on the United States, written by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or another credible independent watchdog, using the same parameters as the rest of the survey.
That would make the State Department's annual report much more credible. Even Hugo would find it harder to attack it.
source: http://www.sltrib.com/opinion/ci_3598458 14mar2006
Political Analysis: U.S. State Department Knocks Russia on Human Rights
M. ALKHAZASHVILI / The Messenger (Georgia) n.48, i.1068, 14mar2006
The U.S. State Department's annual country reports on human rights, released March 8, gave particularly harsh criticism of Russia for its lack of progress and notable setbacks in human rights and development of democracy.
"The most notable human rights development during the year was continued centralization of power in the executive branch, which was strengthened by changes in the parliamentary election laws and a move away from election of regional governors to their nomination by the president for confirmation by regional legislatures," reads the country report on Russia.
The State Department says this trend, coupled with continuing media restrictions and self-censorship, a compliant State Duma, continuing corruption and selectivity in enforcement of the law, political pressure on the judiciary, and harassment of some non-governmental organizations "resulted in an erosion of the accountability of government leaders to the people."
In the introduction to the human rights reports, the U.S. government singled out Russia on three separate matters: human rights abuses in conflict regions, undermining civil society and failure to ensure democratic elections.
"In Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's Northern Caucasus region, federal forces and pro-Moscow Chechen forces engaged in abuses including torture, summary executions, disappearances, and arbitrary detentions," the report states, noting that 2005 "saw the continued spread of violence and abuses throughout the region, where there was an overall climate of lawlessness and corruption."
In addition to criticizing a new law restricting NGOs, the U.S. State Department called out Russia for acting "to limit critical voices in the media." By the end of 2005, the report states, "all independent nationwide television stations had been taken over either by the state or by state-friendly organizations."
In a third lashing of Russia, the State Department criticized efforts to concentrate power in the Kremlin and direct democracy from the top down. "In the current Russian context, where checks and balances are weak at best, this system limits government accountability to voters while further concentrating power in the executive branch," the report states.
But the report also mentions some progressive steps that were seen in 2005 toward improving human rights protection in Russia, including a more independent court system during discussion of certain issues and the government's fight against racial and ethnic violence.
According to the report Burma, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, China and Zimbabwe are the countries where the human rights are most violated. Some American allies are also strictly criticized in the report: Saudi Arabia - for beating prisoners and for the non-existence of religious freedom; Egypt - for election falsification and prison torture; and the United Arab Emirates - for the legalized whipping people convicted of drug addiction and adultery.
source: http://www.messenger.com.ge/issues/1068_march_14_2006/n_1068_4.htm 14mar2006
China Rebuffs U.S. ‘Human Rights’ Study
G. DUNKEL / Workers World (US) 13mar2006
U.S ruling circles use concern over human rights as a political and ideological weapon against anyone challenging them. The “human rights” gambit was honed during the Cold War and now is employed against a wide range of countries—from China and Russia to Belarus, Iran, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Cuba—to serve the needs of U.S. foreign policy.
One of the highpoints of Washington’s use of this tactic is the annual State Department report on human rights, released this year with grand fanfare March 8.
The U.S. government tries to use alleged human rights violations to justify its interventions and threats to intervene. Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti are three recent examples. This alleged concern for democracy and other high ideals lets Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice say with a straight face: “Our promotion of human rights and democracy is in keeping with America’s most cherished principles and it helps to lay the foundation for lasting peace in the world.”
But Abu Ghraib prison, with many of its most horrifying photographs still under wraps; Guantanamo’s atrocities; “secret” renditions of U.S. prisoners to be tortured by client police states; the CIA’s boasts that the U.S. has developed “touchless torture”; which relies on sensory overload or deprivation to destroy a prisoner’s psyche; the death penalty, widely used by U.S. courts, and the fiasco of Katrina have exposed U.S. hypocrisy to all the world.
Members of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), which is China’s top advisory body, held a panel on the U.S. report March 10, two days after it appeared, according to an English-language dispatch from the news agency Xinhua. For the past seven years, China has released a report on violations of human rights in the United States in response to the one the U.S. State Department releases.
“The United States, a self-proclaimed ‘human rights judge,’ has once again pointed its fingers at others while totally ignoring its own problems,” said Zhao Qizheng who formerly was minister in charge of the Information Office of the State Council, the Chinese cabinet.
According to Yang Zhengquan, another CPPCC member, the U.S. criticism on China has nothing to do with human rights but aims at “undermining China’s socialist system.”
“It’s nothing but dirty politics, which is totally ideology-oriented,” he said. “The United States is attempting to achieve its political goals under the pretext of human rights.”
Chinese reply strikes home
China’s report on U.S. violation of human rights is divided into seven parts: on life and security of person; on infringements upon human rights by law enforcement and judicial organs; on political rights and freedom; on economic, social and cultural rights; on racial discrimination; on rights of women and children; and on the United States’ violation of human rights in other countries.
The report summarizes these issues from a perspective of a different society and a different political system. For someone living in the United States, it is painful to recall all the depravities and inequities listed, including racism, homelessness, high homicide rates, violence against women and the ever-rising level of incarceration in prison:
“As the prisons in the U.S. were packed, the situation of prisoners worsened.
“During Hurricane Katrina, between Aug. 29 and Sept. 1, 2005, correctional officers from the New Orleans Sheriff’s Department abandoned 600 inmates in a prison, as many were immersed in chest- and neck-level water and left without food, water, electricity, fresh air, or functioning facilities for four days and nights.”
The report concludes, “The United States has always boasted it was the ‘model of democracy’ and hawked its mode of democracy to the rest of the world. In fact, American ‘democracy’ is always one for the wealthy and a ‘game for the rich’.”
The full Chinese report is available in English at news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-03/09/content_4279166.htm.
The U.S. media recently publicized the income disparity between rural and urban areas in China, which does exist but ignore that the gap between richest and poorest in the United States is far greater. The U.S. State Department’s report makes much of the “disturbances” in rural areas that “are suppressed.”
Chang Cheng, another member of the CPPCC, said that Washington has long ignored the constant progress of human rights in China.
This year the Chinese government announced several major preferential policies to promote rural development, which will bring about substantial benefits for the country’s 900 million farmers. “These policies will help better guarantee the farmers’ right to subsistence and development, which we believe is the primary right for every human being,” Chang said.
Perhaps the State Department didn’t mention China’s steps to achieve economic human rights for its citizens, because at the same time the Bush administration and a majority from both parties in Congress have enacted, along with sharp cuts in social services, tax cuts for the rich that will increase still further the disparity between rich and poor in the United States.
source: http://www.workers.org/2006/world/china-0323/ 14mar2006
Experts Question Credibility of US Human Rights Report
WILLIAM FISHER / The Free Press (Columbus OH) 14mar2006
Foreign policy, legal and human rights authorities are raising serious questions about the credibility of the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human rights, released last week.
The response of Noah S. Leavitt, an attorney who has worked with the International Law Commission of the United Nations in Geneva and the International Court of Justice in The Hague, is typical. Leavitt said, "The sad reality is that because of the Bush Administration’s haughty unilateralism and its mockery of international prohibitions on torture, most of the rest of the world no longer takes the U.S. seriously on human rights matters.”
While most of the experts contacted find little fault with the accuracy of the report, they question whether U.S. human rights abuses committed in the “Global War on Terror” have diminished America’s authority to speak out on this issue.
“The State Department's annual human rights report was once a beacon of truth for American policy makers as well as the rest of the world,” said Patricia Kushlis, a retired official of the U.S. Information Agency. She told us, “But how can it now be seen as anything more than a sham when the Bush Administration consistently breaks our own laws - from illegal wiretaps at home to renditions abroad - yet still tries to portray itself as the protector of freedom, democracy and liberty for all?”
An Egyptian respondent, who spoke on condition of anonymity because her views are at odds with those of her government, told us, “We’re used to the iron fist of government in Egypt. We expect it. We used to have someone we could count on to show our leaders how to lead by setting an example of good governance without the iron fist. It was America. Now that’s gone. Now, the only people who are motivated by what America is doing are the very people it’s trying to defeat – Muslim extremists.”
The report, released in Washington March 8, reviewed human rights achievements and setbacks in some 190 countries and regions around the world. It called the human rights records of key Arab allies poor or problematic, citing flawed elections and torture of prisoners in Egypt, beatings, arbitrary arrest and lack of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, and floggings as punishment for adultery or drug abuse in the United Arab Emirates. Iraq’s performance was said to be ''handicapped'' by insurgency and terrorism that affected every aspect of life, the State Department said.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last month. She praised these nations for being “strategic partners” helping the U.S. in the Global War on Terrorism.
The relationship between the U.S. and the UAE became the center of a political firestorm last week regarding a Dubai company's plans to take over terminal management operations at six U.S. seaports. Despite strong support from President George W. Bush, the UAE ultimately backed out of the deal under pressure from congress to block it.
Introducing the Human Rights report, Secretary Rice said, ''How a country treats its own people is a strong indication of how it will behave toward its neighbors. The growing demand for democratic governance reflects a recognition that the best guarantor of human rights is a thriving democracy,'' with rights such as accountable government and a free press.
But Samer Shehata, Assistant Professor of Arab Politics at the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, told us, “The US has lost a tremendous amount of credibility in any discussion of human rights and rule of law. I can't imagine anyone in the Middle East or the 'Muslim World,' for example, taking the State Department report seriously. After all, how can you take a report on human rights seriously written by a nation-state that is currently perceived to be among the most egregious violators of human rights and rule of law in the world?”
“Everyone remembers Abu Ghraib and no one has forgotten about Guantanamo, especially not in the Middle East,” he added.
A similar view was expressed by Dr. Jack N. Behrman, emeritus professor at the University of North Carolina and a former senior official in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He told us, “The U.S. has forfeited its leadership on human rights as a result of the maxim that ‘You must be careful whom you select as your enemy, for you will become like them’. Washington has adopted fundamentalist religious views in its opposition to Muslim fundamentalism. It has practiced torture, deceived and dissembled, promised to assist those harmed by its policies (or lack thereof) and done little or nothing, and harmed and killed many innocents in an effort to dictate how others should live. All of these are practices by ‘autocratic and evil empires' that this Administration has copied extensively.”
Members of the religious community have also raised doubts about U.S. authority in the human rights area. George Hunsinger, McCord professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary and coordinator of Church Folks for a Better America, told us, “It is tragic that the United States has so recklessly squandered the moral authority it once had in the field of human rights. Nothing could be more urgent than for us to reaffirm our historic commitment to international law. A democratic nation that refuses to cry out against its government's complicity in torture and abuse -- and to ban them without loopholes -- is approaching spiritual death.”
Some commentators have raised questions about the report’s completeness, as well as the issue of U.S. credibility. Neil Hicks, Director of International Programs for legal advocacy group Human Rights First, expressed concern about what he termed “a blind spot” in the reports -- reporting on states that send people to countries where they are at risk of torture.
He told us, “Numerous governments have apparently cooperated with the U.S. in rendering detainees to countries that are known for their use of torture. This is a clear violation of the U.N. torture convention but it is not mentioned in the report.” The State Department report does not include U.S. policies and practices.
Hicks called the report “admirable and comprehensive,” but told us it is “regrettable that U.S. violations of human rights undermine their credibility and effectiveness, and make it easy for governments rightly criticized in the reports to point the finger back at the U.S. “
Some foreign governments are also using America’s diminished authority to criticize the State Department report. The Chinese government-controlled People’s Daily Online accused the U.S. of “posing once again as "the world's judge of human rights." It said “The State Department pointed the finger at human rights situations in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but kept silent on the serious violations of human rights in the United States.”
source: http://www.freepress.org/departments/display/9/2006/1852 14mar2006
Samoa Tells U.S. to Back Off With Criticism
Xinhuanet (Beijing, China) 14mar2006
WELLINGTON — Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele said the U.S. State Department should fix problems in the United States first before it points its fingers to other countries.
Radio New Zealand's Tuesday reports said Tuilaepa was reacting to a report by the U.S. State Department highlighting what it calls unfair parliamentary proceedings as a human rights concern.
Tuilaepa told the Samoa Broadcasting Corporation that the State Department fails to substantiate its claims of human rights violations and does not understand Samoa's culture and traditions.
He recommended that the United States concentrate on resolving endless internal problems in America before meddling with the affairs of other governments.
source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-03/14/content_4302451.htm 14mar2006
Ethiopia Says U.S. Human Rights Report "Full of Hearsays"
Xinhuanet (Beijing, China) 13mar2006
ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia said on Monday a U.S. report regarding human rights situations in the Horn of Africa country is "full of hearsays."
The report, released last week by the U.S. State Department, focuses on the situations of human rights of several countries, including Ethiopia, said a statement from Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry.
The report's allegations concerning human rights violation in Ethiopia was "totally groundless," the statement said.
Ethiopia gives special attention to respect of human rights as enshrined in the national constitution, it said.
Ethiopia has been mobilizing the entire governmental bodies and institutions as well as citizens with a view to implementing human rights conventions practically, it added.
Ethiopia has also striven to "minimize human rights violations that may occur as a result of dangerous strategy formulated by opposition parties," the statement said.
The violence "instigated by oppositions" claimed the lives of members of the police and citizens, it said.
However, the endorsement of the report by the U.S. State Department through its Human Right Bureau, which "did not" base on facts and "without verifying complaints submitted to it with the intention of political gain," makes it "questionable," the statement said.
The statement said the U.S. State Department has "not attempted" to verify the positions of those bodies and the government in particular regarding the complaints, which it said, is "unethical."
It said the report does not have any benefit at all both to ensuring human rights and development of democracy in the country.
source: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-03/14/content_4299914.htm 14mar2006
U.S. Policy of Abuse Undermines Rights Worldwide
Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 / Human Rights Watch 18jan2006
[Download complete Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 at HRW website 544p PDF 2.5 Mb]
Washington, D.C – New evidence demonstrated in 2005 that torture and mistreatment have been a deliberate part of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism strategy, undermining the global defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2006.
The evidence showed that abusive interrogation cannot be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior U.S. government officials. The policy has hampered Washington’s ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume’s introductory essay.
“Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive.”
Roth said the illegal tactics were fueling terrorist recruitment, discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees.
U.S. partners such as Britain and Canada compounded the lack of human rights leadership by trying to undermine critical international protections. Britain sought to send suspects to governments likely to torture them based on meaningless assurances of good treatment. Canada sought to dilute a new treaty outlawing enforced disappearances. The European Union continued to subordinate human rights in its relationships with others deemed useful in fighting terrorism, such as Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
Many countries – Uzbekistan, Russia and China among them – used the “war on terrorism” to attack their political opponents, branding them as “Islamic terrorists.”
Human Rights Watch documented many serious abuses outside the fight against terrorism. In May, the government of Uzbekistan massacred hundreds of demonstrators in Andijan, the Sudanese government consolidated “ethnic cleansing” in Darfur, western Sudan, and persistent atrocities were reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chechnya. Severe repression continued in Burma, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Tibet and Xinjiang in China, while Syria and Vietnam maintained tight restrictions on civil society and Zimbabwe conducted massive, politically motivated forced evictions.
There were bright spots in efforts to uphold human rights by the Western powers in Burma and North Korea. Developing nations also played a positive role: India suspended most military aid to Nepal after the king’s coup, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forced Burma to relinquish its 2006 chairmanship because of its appalling human rights record. Mexico took the lead in convincing the United Nations to maintain a special rapporteur on protecting human rights while countering terrorism. Kyrgyzstan withstood intense pressure from Uzbekistan to rescue all but four of 443 refugees from the Andijan massacre, and Romania gave them temporary refuge.
The lack of leadership by Western powers sometimes ceded the field to Russia and China, which built economic, social and political alliances without regard to human rights.
In his introductory essay to the World Report, Roth writes that it became clear in 2005 that U.S. mistreatment of detainees could not be reduced to a failure of training, discipline or oversight, or reduced to “a few bad apples,” but reflected a deliberate policy choice embraced by the top leadership.
Evidence of that deliberate policy included the threat by President George W. Bush to veto a bill opposing “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” Roth writes, and Vice President Dick Cheney’s attempt to exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from the law. In addition, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales claimed that the United States can mistreat detainees so long as they are non-Americans held abroad, while CIA Director Porter Goss asserted that “waterboarding,” a torture method dating back to the Spanish Inquisition, was simply a “professional interrogation technique.”
“Responsibility for the use of torture and mistreatment can no longer credibly be passed off to misadventures by low-ranking soldiers on the nightshift,” said Roth. “The Bush administration must appoint a special prosecutor to examine these abuses, and Congress should set up an independent, bipartisan panel to investigate.”
The Human Rights Watch World Report 2006 contains survey information on human rights developments in more than 70 countries in 2005. In addition to the introductory essay on torture, the volume contains two essays: “Private Companies and the Public Interest: Why Corporations Should Welcome Global Human Rights Rules” and “Preventing the Further Spread of HIV/AIDS: The Essential Role of Human Rights.”
source: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2006/01/13/global12428_txt.htm 14mar2006
March 14, 2006
The U.S. State Department issued a report criticizing human rights abuses in China, North Korea, Iran, and Cuba. It also criticized the rights records of Jordan and Egypt, two countries where the United States has sent detainees to be interrogated. The report noted that the United States' "own journey towards liberty and justice for all has been long and difficult," and is "far from complete."
source: http://www.harpers.org/WeeklyReview2006-03-14.html 14mar2006