State Department Releases 2010 Human Rights Report

by Peggy McGuinness

On Friday, the State Department issued the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, a mandatory report to the United States Congress on human rights conditions around the globe.  This link to the full report is here,  the remarks of Secretary Clinton is here, and a very useful q and a with Mike Posner, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor is here.   If you are wondering why the report cannot be downloaded as one neat pdf file, it weighs in at over 7,000 printed pages!  The Department also announced the launching of a new, separate web portal for human rights reporting, www.humanrights.gov:

As part of our mission to update statecraft for the 21st century, today I’m also pleased to announce the launch of our new website, humanrights.gov.* This site will offer one-stop shopping for information about global human rights from across the United States Government. It will pull together reports, statements, and current updates from around the world. It will be searchable and it will be safe. You won’t need to register to use it. We hope this will make it easier for citizens, scholars, NGOs, and international organizations to find the information they need to hold governments accountable.

I will be posting more on the human rights reporting process in the weeks to come, but I would point out for now that it is a very interesting development in the global human rights project that the U.S. State Department has become–as the new website amply demonstrates–a central repository for reporting on human rights protection globally.  But with the advent of the Universal Periodic Review process at the UN Human Rights Council, it is not the only one.  Of course, not everyone is so enthusiastic about the State Department’s self-appointment as global arbiter.  The Chinese government, while engaging in one of its worst crackdowns against human rights lawyers and political activists in recent memory, managed to find time to issue its own report on human rights conditions in the U.S.:

In the United States, the violation of citizens’ civil and political rights by the government is severe, said the report.

Citizen’s privacy has been undermined. More than 6,600 travelers had been subject to electronic device searches between October 1, 2008 and June 2, 2010, nearly half of them American citizens, said the report, citing figures released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in September 2010.

The report said abuse of violence and torturing suspects to get confession is serious in the US law enforcement, and “wrongful conviction occurred quite often.”

While advocating Internet freedom, the US in fact imposes fairly strict restriction on cyberspace, said the report.

The United States applies double standards on Internet freedom by requesting unrestricted “Internet freedom” in other countries, which becomes an important diplomatic tool for the US to impose pressure and seek hegemony, and imposing strict restriction within its own territory, the report said.

The US regards itself as “the beacon of democracy.” However, its democracy is largely based on money, the report said.

According to media report in 2010, US House and Senate candidates shattered fundraising records for a midterm election, taking in more than $1.5 billion as of October 24. The midterm election, held in November 2010, finally cost $3.98 billion, the most expensive in the US history.

More less-than-enthusiastic reactions to the US report can be found here (Bangladesh) and here (Russia).

* Great domain name, but searchability is not yet optimal.

http://opiniojuris.org/2011/04/11/state-department-releases-2010-human-rights-report/

3 Responses

  1. Peggy, in addition to concerns about whether the US has legitimacy to act as some kind of ‘judge’ of human rights compliance in other states, there is concern with the content of the reports themselves. In the case of Ireland, for example, there are various places where the State Department’s report is underinclusive, even taking into account its descriptive (rather than analytical) nature. In many cases, the omissions are interesting because they potentially reverberate with domestic debates in the US itself (although, I suppose, it might just be under researched?). I did a short analysis (http://www.humanrights.ie/index.php/2011/04/10/ussdrep2010/) and I bet that similar analyses are being done/possible in other countries as well. I wonder how political these reports really are, even for states where there is no real and identifiable tension between the United States and the country being reported on.

  2. Fiona-
    Thanks for the link and your longer comments over at the Human Rights Ireland site.  Politicization and under-inclusiveness have long been criticisms of the report, and your thorough review of the Ireland report demonstrates the degree to which an individual country report does not offer a full picture of the breadth and depth of human rights concerns within particular states.  I found particularly interesting your observation about the lack of attention to social and economic rights.  Keep in mind too that these reports are drafted by the State Department, and view human rights through an American diplomatic/foreign policy lens, rather than through a legal/judicial lens.

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  1. […] estos informes hacen que se genere una dinámica de examen mutuo. Al respecto, como se menciona por Peggy McGuinness, China ha contestado con la emisión de un informe sobre la situación de los derechos políticos […]