On March 11th, the U.S. Department of State released its annual Country Reports On Human Rights Practices. The report provides the U.S. Congress "with a full, factual record to help U.S. policy makers make … well-informed decisions, and has been increasingly used as a core reference document by governments around the world," said State Department Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner. It explores trends and developments and provides a detailed picture of human rights conditions in a hundred ninety four countries in 2009.
"The idea of human rights begins with a fundamental commitment to the dignity that is the birthright of every man, woman and child," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she introduced the report to the press:
"When we work to secure human rights, we are working to protect the experiences that make life meaningful, to preserve each person’s ability to fulfill his or her God-given potential."
"There are several trends that we identify in the report," Assistant Secretary Posner said. One is that increasingly, governments are becoming more restrictive of nongovernmental human rights organizations. Human rights defenders in particular were singled out for harsh treatment.
"Another trend that we see, which is, I think, a part of the world we live in," Posner said, "is governments misuse or overuse concepts of national security to impose draconian restrictions on people, but at the same time, those national security emergencies are real in many places."
Another trend is a growing reliance by activists on advocacy through new communications media. Governments are also very aware of the power of these new media and are trying to control them and those using them in ways that are really troubling and invade personal privacy.
The report also notes a trend of escalating discrimination and persecution of members of vulnerable groups who lack the political power in their societies to defend their own interests. This trend was observed even in several countries with generally strong records of respecting human rights.
"The reports ... are a record of where we are," said Secretary of State Clinton. "They provide a fact base that will inform the United States’ diplomatic, economic and strategic policies toward other countries in the coming year."
Visit http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/ for more information on the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights.