The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

U.S. Slams Foreign Rights Abuses, Fails to Note Own Complicity

by Jessica Azulay

In reporting on the human rights abuses around the world, the State Department has neglected facts and claims from its sources that implicate the US in the very abuses it decried.

Mar. 8, 2007 – In its yearly report on human rights violations abroad, the US State Department acknowledged the analyses come "at a time when [the United States’s] own record and actions… taken to respond to the terrorist attacks against us have been questioned." But the reports carefully omit US support for and involvement in the very practices it criticizes.

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"There are clear and troubling gaps in this report," the US-based group Human Rights First said in a press statement. "As in years past, the US government has rightly identified and criticized countries for their repression of human-rights activists, but this in many instances only serves to highlight how US government policies fail to follow through on this commitment in practice."

In compiling its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, delivered to Congress annually, the State Department relied in part on documentation compiled by non-governmental human-rights groups. But in some cases, the State Department cherry picked the allegations of these sources to obscure the US government’s direct and indirect role in abuses.

For instance, the State Department’s assessment of human rights in Pakistan cites an Amnesty International (AI) report that, in the words of the State Department, "documented the [Pakistani] government's abuses against hundreds of its citizens and foreign nationals."

The State Department report continued: "AI reported that as the practice of enforced disappearance spread, people were arrested and held incommunicado in secret locations with their detention officially denied. They were at risk of torture and unlawful transfer to third countries. The [Amnesty] report noted that the ‘practice of offering rewards running to thousands of dollars for unidentified terror suspects facilitated illegal detention and enforced disappearance.’"

The State Department cherry picked the allegations to obscure the US government’s direct and indirect role in abuses.

But the State Department left out that the United States was behind those rewards and at least some of the detentions. The very next sentence in the cited Amnesty International report reads: "Many individuals were arrested by Pakistani [authorities] or captured by local people and handed over to US law enforcement or intelligence personnel in exchange for a reward."

In its report on Afghanistan, the State Department cites Human Rights Watch’s implications of "security forces" in the arbitrary detention and abuse of detainees. But it does not mention that the bulk of Human Rights Watch’s documentation of detainee abuse in Afghanistan focuses on US military conduct.

The State Department says that in 2006, human-rights violations in Indonesia included unlawful killings by security forces, as well as torture, harsh prison conditions and arbitrary detentions. But the Department does not note that, to the chagrin of human-rights groups, the US State Department has lifted restrictions on selling arms to Indonesia. Neither does it note that the United States is training Indonesian military and police forces.

In a press statement criticizing the Bush administration for continuing to "turn a blind eye to many instances of abuse by countries cited by the State Department for appalling human rights records," Amnesty International USA called on the US government to change its own record on human rights and "provide the leadership to help end abuse around the globe."

Larry Cox, Amnesty’s executive director, said in the statement that "for meaningful change to occur, the Bush administration must not only give lip service to condemn the abuses, but also must refuse to conduct business as usual with repressive governments."

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


Jessica Azulay is a staff journalist.

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