State Department Misses Statutory Deadline for Delivering Human Rights Report

April 10, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Hillary Clinton

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

(CNSNews.com) - The U.S. State Department failed to comply with the deadline imposed by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 that requires it to submit to Congress by Feb. 25 each year reports on the human rights conditions in countries around the world.

A State Department spokesman said Tuesday the country reports on human rights had not been released in either February or March and that the department was waiting to release them at a time when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton can personally do so.

“They’ve been postponed a couple of times, the roll-out, because of  scheduling issues, and because the Secretary wants to personally roll out the reports due to the importance she places on human rights,” Anthony Pahigian, spokesman for the Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor at the State Department, told CNSNews.com.

“But we’ve been--we’re keeping Congress informed, and we hope to find an opportunity," he said. "It’s obviously a very busy season for everybody. There’s a lot going on."

In the last 12 years, the latest the reports have ever been released was April 8--which is when the Obama administration released them last year. In the eleven years before that they had never been released later than March.

Among the things that would be expected to be detailed in this year's report would be the status of Christians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the human rights situations in Egypt and in Libya.

Section 116(d) of the law provides that “(T)he Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, by February 25 of each year, a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act."

A spokeswoman for Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) told CNSNews.com,“We have yet to receive the reports.” House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office did not respond to CNSNews.com.

Pahigian, meanwhile, said getting all of the country reports out on time is a “huge undertaking” and added: “There’s a lot of people that pay attention to the report and it’s important to the Secretary and she usually is the one who rolls it out.”

Here’s a list of release dates for the human rights reports going back to 1999:

2010 – April 8, 2011

2009 – March 11, 2010

2008 - February 25, 2009

2007 - March 11, 2008

2006 - March 6, 2007

2005 - March 8, 2006

2004 - February 28, 2005

2003 - February 25, 2004

2002 - March 31, 2003

2001 - March 4, 2002

2000 - “February 2001”

1999 - February 2, 2000

In addition to country-by-country documentation of human rights violations and violations of religious freedom, the statute also requires the State Department to report on “wherever applicable, practices regarding coercion in population control, including coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization.”