State Dept. Will Release Human Rights Reports Soon--Says Amnesty International
(CNSNews.com) – The liberal human rights group Amnesty International says the State Department’s Human Rights Country Reports, which are seriously overdue, will be released “soon.”
Spokeswoman Sharon Singh said Monday that her group had been in contact with the State Department, and had been told that the reports are on the way.
“From our understanding, Amnesty International’s understanding (is) that the reports are either complete or close to being complete and that they will be released soon,” Singh told CNSNews.com.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is required by law to submit a report to Congress by February 25 of each year documenting human rights conditions in countries around the world. This year’s report is more than two months overdue.
“Obviously we would want to the report to come out,” Singh said. “I think the question is also that Congress expects to have this report and my understanding is they will be getting them soon.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who by law must receive the Human Rights Country Reports, did not respond to multiple requests for comment from CNSNews.com.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who is the chairman of the Africa, Global Health and Human Rights subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNSNews.com that he is not happy with the two-month delay.
But Smith said regardless of when the reports eventually do come to Capitol Hill, the Obama administration has been “silent” on human rights issues.
“I’m not sure what the holdup is, but human rights have been so far in the back seat -- so far back on the agenda for this administration -- as to be almost non-existent and that’s not just in regards to China,” Smith told CNSNews.com.
“That’s also North Korea, that’s also places like Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries where Christians and others are being savagely dealt with. They have been silent on so many human rights issues that it’s bewildering.”
Thomas W. Jacobson, director of the International Diplomacy & Public Policy Center, LLC, told CNSNews.com that he is concerned that, when it does release the reports, the State Department will shade the information, especially when it comes to religious freedom.
“I would be surprised if there was an accurate report of what was going on in Arab nations regarding religious persecutions – particularly of Christians,” Jacobson said. “Whether we’re talking Egypt or Syria or Saudi Arabia or Iran, I would expect it to be a much softer tone and not necessarily a truthful analysis.”
He added: “When a government is guilty of certain offenses, it makes it extraordinarily difficult for them to criticize somebody else who’s doing the same thing – because then they expose themselves.”
Jacobson said that the current administration “is pursuing policies which are diametrically opposed to religious freedom by trying to pressure nations on abortion and to affirm same-sex relations.”
“Religious freedom can only be preserved upon a moral foundation,” he added. “If you remove the moral foundation, you can’t preserve religious freedom. And the Obama administration doesn’t respect the moral foundations that are necessary to preserve religious freedom – and does not respect religious freedom.”
“When you pressure nations to legalize abortion and kill their own future generations, you pressure them into violating their religious convictions, their personal principles, their moral principles, respecting the value of life, and then when you pressure them on issues like the sanctity of marriage and (try to get them) to obliterate the sanctity of marriage by affirming same-sex relations -– you can’t do that without violating religious freedom.
Section 116(d) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, 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.”
From 1977 through the 1990s, when the due date for reporting to Congress was set at Jan. 31, the reports were published by the Government Printing Office during the first week of February each year.
Over the last decade, with the Feb. 25 due date, the latest that 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.