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2011 ‘Tumultuous Year’ For Human Rights

2011 ‘Tumultuous Year’ For Human Rights

The U.S. State Department has released its annual human rights report, a couple of months later than usual. It describes 2011 as a “tumultuous and momentous year” and amidst the usual suspects, detects some positive trends.

It says that the democratic opening in Burma may inspire other closed societies to open up.

It says that the Arab spring led to a general improvement in human rights, but that it will take time to build free societies.

Transitions are times of uncertainty. They can be chaotic, unstable, and at times violent. And even when they succeed, they are rarely linear, quick, or easy.

The challenge during these transitions is to keep societies open to political debate. Protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms ensures that negotiations over a country’s future can take place without fear or intimidation, and that anti-democratic forces do not snuff out genuine political participation.

In her preface, Hillary Clinton says:

Respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere.

Her department was forced to defend the report from accusations of hypocrisy, that human rights are subordinate to U.S. political and security interests, seen, for example, in the approach to Bahrain’s violent crackdown on dissent.

Protesters there have been seen with banners showing Hillary Clinton with the line: “U.S. interests comes before our freedom.”

The U.S. plans to resume arms sales to Bahrain at the same time as the report notes “serious unresolved human rights issues” in Bahrain and reports of “excessive use of force” by riot police.

The report also fails to mention U.S. drone killings of civilians, even though, in chapters on Yemen, Somalia, Turkey and Pakistan, it does cover killings by government forces.

Said Amnesty International USA:

The United States cannot selectively champion freedom and human rights when convenient. It must fully commit to ensuring that human rights are not an afterthought, but integral to its foreign relations and economic negotiations.

The report is strongly critical of human rights in American ally Ethiopia. On Israel, another ally, the report notes continuing racial discrimination against non-Jews, particularly Arabs, and details at length mistreatment of Palestinians. On India, it covers widespread corruption and police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture and rape.

For the third year, each country has its record on human rights for LGBT people discussed. The report says:

In many countries there was an uptick in discrimination against members of racial and ethnic minorities; people with disabilities; and lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people, all of whom were frequent targets of abuse, discrimination, and violence.

Russia, China and Iran reports top the headlines with all three reacting angrily to the State Department’s coverage of their human rights record. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called it “non-objective,” and not just in relation to Russia.

Russia also points out that the report does not cover human rights in the U.S. China has responded with its own report on human rights in America. This ranges from the policing of Occupy protests, through women’s rights to the high rate of gun violence.

However, the U.S. does actually report on its human rights as part of United Nations processes under the various treaties it is signed up to, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Elsewhere, the report has been picked over in many smaller countries. For example, Hungary responded to their section by claiming that there is no discrimination against Roma (gypsies) in their country.

Watch Secretary Clinton and Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner release the 2011 Country Reports:

Related stories:

US Resumes Arms Sales To Bahrain Over Protests of Activists

Gay Marriage and Obama: International Reaction

Did the U.S. Rush Chen Guangcheng Out of Its Embassy?

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Picture courtesy U.S. Department of State

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22 comments

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6:15PM PDT on Jun 2, 2012

The hypocrisy is rampant in this statement. But it seems the majority of readers who commented on this article are well aware of that. I'd send you all green stars, but I'd be here all evening ;-)

2:42AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

What's new???

11:57PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Human Rights are everyone's concern. And EVERY nation has a problem with human rights!

I have always found it galling that the US will call on China, or another nation, to clean up their human rights policies and record before the US will deal with them --- I believe it is called leveraging --- yet the US has a bad human rights record itself.

Time to get the mirror out and cast no stones lest you break the mirror or a window!

7:29PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Well, scientists have known for a long time you get peace through equality and secular education. No more capitalism, no more religion.

7:18PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Thanks for the update.

4:45PM PDT on May 30, 2012

This woman just needs to shut the hell up. Clean up your own yard before you worry about what goes on in someone else's.

3:42PM PDT on May 30, 2012

..it is easy to say words that sound appealing and popular...by our fruits r we known tho....x

2:18PM PDT on May 30, 2012

@ Nyack C. “And TERRORIST citizens SHOULD be indefinitely detained” Of course. And since there has as yet been no clear definition of terrorism, it makes it easy for an official who ”knows it when he sees it”. Your O won’t make any difference at all. Remember G.W.Bush's statement, "You are either with me or you're with the terrorists".

1:59PM PDT on May 30, 2012

"2011 ‘Tumultuous Year’ For Human Rights" - Yeah. Especially here in the U.S. where we are throwing Human and Civil Rights away as fast as we can.

1:46PM PDT on May 30, 2012

Was this the same Ms. Clinton who promised to bomb Iran if she were elected president, the one who criticized China for its one-child policy, who repeated the mantra “We will never forsake Israel” even as Israel showed its commitment to a two state solution by refusing to acknowledge a Palestinian state, declaring all Jewish “settlements” in the West Bank part of Israel, and continuing to demolish Arab homes to expand said settlements ? Did she protest when police repeatedly sprayed pepper spray directly into the eyes of peaceful AMERICAN protesters ? Tell us about human rights, Hillary.

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