State Department Human Rights Reports Provide Roadmap to Reform in the Middle East

Press Release
April 8, 2011

State Department Human Rights Reports Provide Roadmap to Reform in the Middle East

Amnesty International Media Statement
For Immediate Release
Friday, April 8, 2011

State Department Human Rights Reports Provide Roadmap to Reform in the Middle East, Says Amnesty International

Contact: Gwen Fitzgerald, 202.509.8194, gfitzgerald@aiusa.org

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Following today’s release of the Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights, Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) Managing Director of Government Relations Adotei Akwei issued the following statement.

"AIUSA welcomes the release of the 2010 reports. These reports can provide an invaluable roadmap to reforming U.S. relations with evolving and existing governments in the Middle East and North Africa and should serve as the guiding principles for necessary course corrections in U.S. foreign policy, with allies and non-allies.

The U.S. government has a tremendous opportunity to provide human rights leadership throughout the world. To do so, policy makers must put greater emphasis on addressing the issues identified in the reports. Historically, however, these findings have had only miniscule impact in shaping U.S. foreign policy. 

The Obama administration has stated that human rights are a priority. The United States’ best interests are upheld when human rights principles more consistently influence the foreign policy agenda, including by providing sustained support of frontline human rights defenders, opposing unjust laws, challenging impunity and advocating for people to live with freedom and dignity. These priorities strengthen the rule of law and are an economical and sustainable investment in building rights-respecting, stable societies, thereby helping to prevent crises.

The State Department reports should be a tool in shaping how the United States should approach the changing political landscapes of Tunisia and Egypt. Strengthening the rule of law, and improving transparency, accountability, democratic practices and the empowerment of women should be priorities. The reports could also shape a sustainable approach to developments in Bahrain and Yemen that complement the aspirations of the people as opposed to just the desires of the governments in power.   

The "Arab Spring" is a prescient reminder of the key role of economic injustice in political upheaval; while the Obama administration has taken steps toward acknowledging economic, social and cultural rights and refers to economic opportunity in the report’s introduction, it has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and does not assess these rights in the Country Reports. The cost of this gap was exposed by the wind of change that swept the region. It is time for the foreign policy of the United States to catch up with reality."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #