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2011 Human Rights Reports Overview

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, May 24, 2012, to discuss the State Department's annual report on human rights. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Reports assess each country’s situation against universal human rights standards.

In late May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton submitted to the U.S. Congress the 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, as required by law. The Human Rights Reports assess each country’s situation against universal human rights standards, during each calendar year, and each report stands on its own.

2011 saw some positive trends, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, held successful, transparent elections for a Constituent Assembly, which in turn elected a former political prisoner as the country’s interim prime minister.

In Burma, the government took important steps toward political reform and released more than 200 political prisoners. And in Colombia, the government has been working to improve justice in human rights cases.

But there are also a number of disturbing trends. Flawed elections, restrictions on the freedom of expression, assembly, or association, including on the Internet, censorship or intimidation of the media and attempts to control the activities of civil society and non-governmental groups have caused some countries to backslide.

Some countries suffered an increase in anti-Semitism, while the persecution of religious minorities such as Ahmadis, Baha’is, Buddhists, Christians or Jews persisted or increased. In many countries there was an increase in abuse, discrimination, and violence against members of racial and ethnic minorities; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

“As these reports document, there is a lot of work that remains to be done,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as she introduced the report:

“And we know we have to recommit to the work of advancing universal rights, building the partnerships that will move us forward, helping every man, woman, and child live up to their God-given potential. And we know we have to be able to speak out and speak up for those unable to use their own voices.”

“This is at the core of who we are,” said Secretary Clinton. “This is central to what we believe. And this is the work that will continue administration after administration, secretary after secretary, because of its centrality to our foreign policy and national security.”