Annual State Department Report Notes Significant Human Rights Abuses


"The message at the heart of these reports is that countries do best when their citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled," Secretary of State John Kerry said. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

The brutality of human rights abuses committed by terrorist organizations and authoritarian governments was a leading emphasis in a report published last week by the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The report contains detailed analysis of human rights issues in global nations, with 21 countries being highlighted in an introduction as countries of particular concern.

For example, the Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) was cited for its "systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations." Russia was also critiqued for abuses due to "increasingly authoritarian" governance, "new repressive laws," efforts to annex Crimea, and its support of separatists in Ukraine.

Three major trends were emphasized in the introduction to the individual reports:

1. The brutality of terrorist groups.

"Terrorist organizations like ISIL, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, Jabhat al-Nusra, and others perpetrated human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law against innocent non-combatants. Often, they sought to eliminate those who did not conform to their extreme views, including other Sunni Muslims," the introduction said.

The report also noted that "authoritarian states continued to use violence or regressive laws to silence domestic dissidents, sometimes in the name of fighting terrorism or foreign threats."

2. Technology's influence in human rights.

Governments limited free speech by limiting Internet access and blocking websites, particularly social media sites. Those who chose to exercise their rights to free speech were often punished.

Positive uses of technology include the use of "satellite imagery, video, and crowd sourcing technologies to gather information and document human rights abuses in areas where security and accessibility have made such reporting challenging in recent years."

3. The interplay between corruption, violations of human rights and repressive forms of government.

Russia and China were among the several nations cited as evidence of this trend.

"The ultimate test for any country - with respect to human rights and democracy - is the ability to view itself critically and hold itself accountable, addressing challenges and correcting imperfections by pursuing ongoing reform in a transparent manner," the document said.

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the press on Thursday, June 25, upon the report's release, calling it "one of the most important reports that the department puts out" and noting that it "reflects a vast amount of objective research."

"The message at the heart of these reports is that countries do best when their citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled," Kerry said.

John L. Allen Jr., associate editor of Crux, a Boston Globe media site focused on the Roman Catholic Church, critiqued the report's lack of focus on Christian persecution.

"[A]t least judging by its treatment of Egypt, American Secretary of State John Kerry could benefit from some face time with a Christian named Nabil Soliman," Allen wrote, detailing a Job-like story of persecution.

"[T]he omission of his story and others like it from the State Department account is both puzzling and alarming," he added, later commenting, "In general, religion is undervalued throughout the State Department report. It lists seven categories of human rights problems, treating religious freedom as a mere sub-heading under 'respect for civil liberties.'"

Christian persecution is not mentioned in Kerry's preface to the report, and the detailed country-by-country analyses include no specific information within the freedom of religion subsection, instead referring readers to the state department's 2013 religious freedom report.

The report's introduction offers a brief summary of the human rights' situation in several countries, including Egypt, but specific reference to Christian persecution is noted briefly only in a section focused on Islamic State actions.

The full report is available here.

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Tags: EthicsDaily Staff, Human Rights, State Department


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