"History has shown that governments that respect their people’s rights do tend, over time, to be more stable, more peaceful, and ultimately more prosperous," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when introducing the State Department's 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. That is why defense of human rights "is a core element of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, because it actually is in line with our values, our interests, and our security," she said.
It is also why, for the past three decades, the U.S. has issued the annual Human Rights Report.
This year, the United States is particularly disturbed by three trends that have emerged in 2010. The first trend is a widespread crackdown on civil society activists. Governments have used the courts and detention to persecute and intimidate activists, and imposed new restrictions on non-governmental organizations and political parties.
Second, an increasing number of countries have stepped up efforts to curtail freedoms of expression, assembly, and association. More than 40 governments now restrict the internet through various means.
The third disturbing trend of 2010 was the repression of vulnerable minorities, including racial, ethnic and religious minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In some countries, for example, laws against blasphemy, an "offense" that may be punishable by death, have been enforced against Muslims who do not share the beliefs of other Muslims, and against non-Muslims.
But in 2010, we also saw improvements in the human rights situations in a number of countries. We saw uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, where people demanded their universal human rights. In some countries, governments began consulting with human rights defenders. A number of others have held free and fair elections for the first time. Elsewhere, voters have gone to the polls to decide their country's future via referenda.
"Societies flourish when they address human rights problems instead of suppressing them," said Secretary of State Clinton. "Freedom from fear makes economies grow as citizens invest, innovate, and participate.
"Where human rights matter, children grow up with the precious belief that they matter, too; that they should be able to live in dignity and shape their own destinies. People everywhere deserve no less."