Is the U.S. State Department Understating Human Rights Abuses?April 20, 2016
Following last week’s release of the 2016 Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Amnesty International USA conducted a review of the reports and offered an analysis of the reports.
The annual, Congressionally-mandated reports are meant to highlight abuses such as human rights defenders being killed, detained or hounded in to exile, along with draconian restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, often imposed in the name of national security.
Unfortunately, this year’s report continues the practice of using diplomatic language to understate human rights violations. The report also continues to bury some cases of abuse by failing to refer to them in the summary section of the report.
Here’s what we saw in this year’s report. Click ‘read more’ to see a detailed assessment on the country.
The report on Brazil acknowledges that unlawful killings by state police on and off duty occurred, and that in Rio de Janeiro State the police killed at least 410 civilians in “acts of resistance” (similar to resisting arrest). Most of these deaths occurred while police were conducting operations against drug-trafficking gangs operating in Rio de Janeiro’s poor communities and that disproportionate number of the victims were Afro-Brazilians under 25 years of age.” The reports did not mention that less than 8% of all homicides are investigated, let alone those committed by police. Read more
This year’s report heavily cited reports from human rights organizations that exposed human rights concerns with the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen. It would have been better had the Department of State taken the next step of using their own documentation, as well as that of the human rights community and turned it into actual policy.
Amnesty International has called on the U.S. and all countries providing arms to actors in the Yemen crisis to take steps to ensure these weapons aren’t being used in human rights violations. Amnesty International would like the U.S. to make a strict legally binding guarantee that the end use of those arms will be in line with international law and those arms transfers will not be used to commit violations in Yemen. Read more
The report is thorough and comprehensive. It is also depressingly reminiscent of previous reports that detail consistent abuses by the various ranches of the Nigerian security forces and the continuing culture of impunity for those abuses. Read more
The DoS report presents a convincing picture of human rights violations by military and security officials. What it fails to do is to acknowledge that U.S. arms sales and training may be complicit in the very abuses the DoS report documents. There is a clear pattern that weapons of the type being sold by the U.S. to Egypt have been used to commit serious human rights violations by the Egyptian military and security forces documented in the DoS report. Read more
The report fails to report on the magnitude of the widespread use of torture and CID treatment by law enforcement and investigative officials. AI has called the use of torture in Mexico an epidemic. As in previous years, the special medical examination procedure of the Federal Attorney General’s Office for cases of alleged torture was not applied in most cases, with a backlog of more than 1,600 requests on file. Read more
The Department of State provides a thorough report on human rights concerns in Russia. The chapter, which is 75 pages in length, covers a wide range of issues and highlights three broad areas of concern:
- Restrictions on the ability to choose one’s government and freedoms of expression, assembly and association, and media and internet freedom
- Political prosecutions and administration of justice
- Government discrimination against racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities
You can read our full assessment of the countries above and more here.