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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Introduction


March 4, 2002

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I. Human Rights and National Security

For the United States, indeed for the whole world, 2001 was a year in which the importance of universal human rights was brought sharply into focus by global terrorism. On September 11, 2001, the world changed. As President Bush declared in his State of the Union Address, "In a single instant, we realized that this will be a decisive decade in the history of liberty, that we've been called to a unique role in human events. Rarely has the world faced a choice more clear or consequential. ...We choose freedom and the dignity of every life." This choice reflects both U.S. values and the universality of human rights that steadily have gained international acceptance over the past 50 years.

As the United States and our international partners commit resources to the fight against terrorism, we do so for all those who respect and yearn for human rights and democracy. Our fight against terrorism is part of a larger fight for democracy. In the words of President Bush, "America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture. But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: The rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, free speech, equal justice and religious tolerance." This world of democracy, opportunity, and stability is a world in which terrorism cannot thrive.

While the battle only has begun, we already have achieved significant objectives. Afghan citizens have been released from the brutal and oppressive rule of the Taliban. Afghan women, who suffered violence and repression, are now beginning to resume their roles in society. Indeed Afghanistan is a triumph for human rights in 2001.

There is, however, much more work still to be done. The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001 captures a world still reeling and reacting to the events of last September. Yet the Reports' central mission remains the same--to give voice to those who have been denied the freedoms and rights provided for in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. The Reports confirm that the battle of ideas between those who suppress democracy and human rights and those who would see them flourish remains far from over. Only through the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms can the international community be secure from the scourge of terrorism.

II. The Year in Review: Developments in Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the subsequent launch of the international war on terrorism were the defining events of 2001. Assembling a disparate group of nations into an international coalition, the United States led the way into a campaign to defend peace, security, and freedom. In addition to bringing the world together in a common cause, this effort has provided an opportunity to expand the dialog on human rights and fundamental freedoms with a broad spectrum of countries.

Institutional Changes: Perhaps nowhere was institutional change more significant than in Afghanistan, where 5 years of repressive Taliban rule came to an end. While all Afghans suffered under the cruel and arbitrary rule of the Taliban, women were particularly affected since they were denied their rights and civil liberties and effectively relegated to a state of nonexistence in society. By year's end, members of the international community were committing themselves to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, including the formation of a broad-based, pluralistic Government. Among the new ministers appointed to the interim Government were two women. In addition three women were appointed to the "loya jirga," a consultative council of elders.

In Peru presidential and legislative elections generally met international standards for free and fair elections and demonstrated momentum toward democratic reform in the region. Both transitional President Valentin Paniagua, who took the reins following President Fujimori's departure, and President Alejandro Toledo took significant steps during the year to address past abuses, combat corruption, and establish the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate human rights abuses that occurred under the Fujimori Administration.

The Organization of American States adopted a landmark Inter-American Democratic Charter, which clearly states that "the peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and that their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it." The date of the charter's adoption was, significantly, September 11, just hours after the terrorist attacks.

In the Middle East, a number of countries initiated steps toward increased democratic practices and pluralism in public life. For example, in Bahrain the Amir annulled the State Security Act, which permitted arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and forced exile, and conducted a national referendum in which male and female voters endorsed a plan to restore constitutional rule. The Government also released all political prisoners, took steps to encourage the development of nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) and engender an environment supportive of open political discourse, and registered the Bahrain Human Rights Society, the country's first human rights organization. Events in Qatar and Oman also provided encouragement in 2001.

Political Rights: Open and transparent elections and the peaceful transfer of power marked the coming of age of several democratically elected governments. Thailand held the first elections for its House of Representatives under the 1997 Constitution, following the election in 2000 of Senate members, who previously were appointed by the King. East Timor continued on its path toward independence with its first election since the 1999 independence referendum. The people of East Timor voted for a Constituent Assembly that then began talks on how the new state would be structured. In Kosovo well-organized elections attracted participation by all ethnic communities. Bangladesh further consolidated its democracy by successfully holding its third parliamentary election on October 1. The election marked the third democratic exchange of power between national Governments since 1991.

In contrast harassment, intimidation, violence, death threats, and fraud marred elections and the political process in several countries. Belarusian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko extended his term of office in September through a process that failed to meet commitments for democratic elections made by the Government to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Allegations of irregularities in the election process in Madagascar caused massive demonstrations in that country.

The lead-up to 2002 elections in Zimbabwe was marred by a campaign of violence and intimidation of the opposition, a breakdown in the rule of law, and the undermining of democratic institutions, such as the judiciary and independent media, which put the fairness and transparency of the elections in serious doubt. In the preparation for Cambodian elections in 2002, the number of apparently politically motivated killings rose sharply. Reports of vote buying already had surfaced several months before the elections.

The Cuban Government continued to deny its citizens basic civil and political rights. Political expression remained prohibited, and the Cuban Government continued to imprison people for political reasons, including for simply criticizing the Government. The Government continued to refuse to allow international organizations to inspect prisons.

In Turkmenistan the Government continued to deny its citizens many fundamental political rights. Political parties and independent NGO's were not allowed.

Internal and Other Conflicts: While persistent strife in many countries continued to challenge efforts to protect the rights of the individual, there were indications in some countries that efforts to secure greater peace and stability were bearing fruit. The U.N. Observer Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo began to move forward with its plans for assisting in the voluntary disarmament and demobilization of nonsignatory armed groups in the Congo, as called for in the Lusaka Cease Fire Agreement. Burundi negotiated an intermediate administrative structure and inaugurated a Transitional Government on November 1. International facilitators were able to defuse internal conflict in Macedonia when they mediated the negotiation of a peace agreement that guaranteed ethnic Albanians more rights.

Palestinian terrorist groups, including some members of the security forces and Fatah's Tanzim, killed 208 Israeli soldiers and civilians in the violence that began in September 2000. Violence intensified in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians increased, including numerous suicide bombings and shootings. Israeli security forces sometimes used excessive force in contravention of their own rules of engagement, killing 501 Palestinians and injuring thousands in response to terrorist attacks, violent demonstrations, and other clashes in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.

The fear of spillover from the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan and a perceived opportunity to legitimize measures against Muslim Uighur activists under the antiterrorism umbrella led to an intensification of a crackdown in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China late in the year. Chinese Government officials asserted that some persons engaged in legitimate political or religious activities were, in fact, involved in terrorist activities or had ties to al-Qaida. Russian forces in Chechnya continued to root out separatist fighters during the year. These sweeps often were accompanied by credible reports of disappearances, extrajudicial killing, extortion, torture, and arbitrary detention.

In Colombia longstanding and widespread internal conflict and rampant violence--both criminal and political--persisted. An estimated 3,000 to 3,500 Colombians died during the year as a result of the conflict, which involved state forces, paramilitary groups, and guerrillas. The Government continued to work to end collaboration between security forces and paramilitary groups, who were responsible for the majority of the killings. Guerrilla groups continued to kidnap large numbers of citizens for ransom. Journalists, judicial employees, human rights workers, and trade unionists were among those targeted by various groups. In addition the population of internally displaced persons continued to increase.

Integrity of the Person: Arbitrary detention, torture, and extrajudicial killings remained common tools of political and religious repression. Public security forces all too frequently tortured detainees in China, Indonesia, Kenya, Burma, Uzbekistan, Mexico, and many other countries. In Turkey torture remained a serious problem, although the number of reported cases declined. In Burma arbitrary detention remained a constant threat to civil liberty. Although Burma released approximately 200 political prisoners during the year, hundreds more remained in prison. Similarly, while Uzbekistan released approximately 800 prisoners accused of crimes against the Constitution, thousands more remained in prison.

The protections of due process and of timely and fair public trials continued to be unavailable in many countries. In Russia a series of so-called espionage cases during the year raised concerns regarding the lack of due process and the influence of the Federal Security Service in court cases. In Zimbabwe the Government undermined the independence of the judiciary by pressuring justices to resign and replacing them with those deemed to be more sympathetic to the ruling party's policies.

The Mexican National Commission on Human Rights released a report on disappearances dating to the 1970's. Of the 532 disappearances documented in the report, 275 allegedly involved public authorities. President Fox took an important first step towards addressing these past abuses by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the cases outlined in the report.

The Lukashenko regime in Belarus undertook no serious measures to determine who was responsible for politically motivated disappearances dating from 1999. Credible eports emerged of a regime "death squad" operating out of the Ministry of the Interior that was responsible for the disappearances of prominent opposition figures and an independent journalist. An individual accused of ordering the disappearances was placed in charge of the investigations. Allegations made by investigators, who subsequently sought asylum abroad, indicated that the regime was blocking a thorough investigation.

Although prison conditions remained harsh in Kazakhstan, the Government took some measures to improve conditions and the treatment of prisoners.

Press Freedom: Governments losing popular support again targeted journalists and the independent media. In Zimbabwe President Mugabe expelled foreign journalists and proposed measures to rein in the free press at home. The Government of Liberia continued to repress and intimidate the free media. Similar incidents of politically motivated attacks on the free press occurred in the post-Soviet states and Russia, where there was apparent government manipulation of the legal system to gain control over the independent nationwide television broadcaster NTV. When NTV was taken over by the state-controlled gas company, Gazprom, TV-6 became Russia's last independent station. Late in the year, TV-6 also came under fire from shareholder Lukoil-Garant, a company partly owned by the Russian Government. The absence of a prompt and transparent investigation into the 2000 killing of Ukrainian independent journalist Heorhiy Gongadze remained of great concern to observers.

Azerbaijan began a new crackdown on the independent media during midyear, intimidating and imprisoning journalists for remarks critical of government officials. However, late in the year, the President called for an end to the harassment of journalists, and after many years of attempting to obtain licenses, several television stations throughout the country were granted licenses at year's end. In Kazakhstan the Parliament passed a media law that, among other things, holds local media outlets criminally responsible for content when reprinting articles published in the foreign media, limits the retransmission of foreign broadcasting, and places restrictions on the Internet. While the Government of Kyrgyzstan did reregister 16 media outlets after months of bureaucratic delay, it continued to pressure the independent media by using lawsuits and other harassing tactics. An independent media was virtually nonexistent in Turkmenistan.

Religious Freedom: Religious freedom remained elusive in many parts of the world. Based on the Department's Annual Report on International Religious Freedom 2001 (issued in October and covering the period July 2000 through June 2001), Burma, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and Sudan were designated "countries of particular concern" by the Secretary of State. The Chinese Government's respect for freedom of religion and of conscience worsened. Various sources reported that thousands of adherents of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were arrested, detained, and imprisoned, and that 200 or more had died in detention since 1999. Some unregistered religious groups were subjected to increased restrictions, intimidation, harassment, and detention. Many leaders of unregistered religious groups remained in prison. In Tibet the Government promptly and forcibly suppressed any activities perceived as advocating Tibetan independence or separatism.

In practice Tibetan Buddhists were prohibited from expressing their reverence for the Dalai Lama as a religious leader.

Incidents of arbitrary detention of Vietnamese citizens for the peaceful expression of political and religious views continued. Leaders of unregistered religious organizations suffered special harassment, detention, and imprisonment. In October a Catholic priest, Father Nguyen Van Ly, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, apparently for calling for respect for religious freedom and human rights. Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam leaders Thich Huyen Quang (the Supreme Patriarch) and Thich Quang Do continued to be held under house arrest.

Obtaining reliable information about the situation in North Korea remained difficult given the regime's rigid control of information. However, reports continued to surface of executions of Christian believers. The Government's human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit numerous serious abuses. The regime continued to crack down on unauthorized religious groups and tightly control official groups.

In Uzbekistan security forces continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily on false charges, particularly Muslims suspected of extremist sympathies. The Government continued to view those who practiced an unauthorized version of Islam as enemies of the State and indiscriminately treated them as potential terrorists. Although some unauthorized versions of Islam advocate the overthrow of secular governments--in some cases by violent means--the Government often arrested those who do not advocate violence and are only guilty of possessing pamphlets from these groups.

In Sudan the Government's insistence on Shari'a law made religious freedom a critical issue in the peace process. The Government continued to restrict the activities of non-Muslims, including Christians and followers of traditional indigenous religions, as well as some Islamic groups. Reports of forced conversions to Islam of orphans, abductees, and army recruits remained a matter of concern.

Although the Government of Saudi Arabia has stated publicly that it will protect the right of non-Muslims to worship privately, the distinction between public and private worship remained unclear. This lack of clarity, combined with instances of arbitrary enforcement, has meant that most non-Muslims worship clandestinely. When discovered some worshippers have been detained and deported.

Women: The plight of Afghan women, who suffered under one of the most repressive regimes in the world, further raised awareness about the continued oppression of women throughout the world and prompted a radio address by First Lady Laura Bush on the Taliban's brutality toward women and children. The President signed the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act of 2001 in December, and the State Department's Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau published The Taliban's War Against Women, describing some of the abuses. Soon after the Taliban regime fell, Afghan women began to reassert their rights to basic human dignities. Some enthusiastically took on leadership roles in the Afghan Interim Authority or the loya jirga; others returned to work in different areas. As women returned to work, and young women and girls prepared to return to school, it became clear that women were eager to return to active participation in Afghan society.

There was other notable progress in human rights for women. In February the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia issued a landmark verdict that found that the enslavement of women and girls in the Bosnian town of Foca for the purpose of continuous rape rose to the level of crimes against humanity. Sixteen women and girls testified that they had been held as slaves and raped multiple times.

In April the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued its first report on the issue of violence against women, observing that Brazil had violated the rights of a female petitioner because the country had failed to act and had tolerated the violence inflicted. The Commission recommended that the perpetrator be prosecuted, the victim compensated, and that the Government continue and expand its reform process to end the problem of state tolerance of domestic violence against women.

In Yemen the Government and a national women's association began a dialog to consider changes to laws that discriminate against women. The women's group provided the Government with legal and religious justifications for the changes. The Government also created a Minister of State for Human Rights and appointed a woman to the position, marking the first time that a woman has held a ministerial position in Yemen. In Turkey substantial reform of the country's Civil Code strengthened gender equality in civil matters. NGO's actively participated in the process and contributed meaningfully to the results.

Despite this progress, so-called honor killings and dowry deaths continued to be major problems in certain parts of the Middle East and South Asia. In many parts of Africa, female genital mutilation continued to damage the physical and psychological health of women and girls and to hinder the economic development of the continent. Millions of women are subjected to this practice each year. In March the State Department released a Report on Female Genital Mutilation.

The international community strongly protested a Nigerian court's decision to sentence a woman to be stoned to death for adultery. The sentence was under appeal at year's end. The incidence of violence, including domestic violence, discriminatory marriage and family laws, as well as unequal access to education, employment, and health care were still significant problems for women in many parts of the world.

Children: By the end of the year, 80 nations, including the United States, had signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. Still, the rights of children in areas of conflict and in impoverished countries continued to be a major concern. Wars deprived many children of food, shelter, medical care, and mental well-being. Children displaced by conflict were deprived of their education. In many areas of the globe, street children faced similar problems. In addition these children remained especially vulnerable to sexual exploitation and abuse by some police and local officials. Many have become addicted to drugs. Some young boys in wealthy Persian Gulf states are exposed to great danger when used as jockeys in camel races.

Children made up the largest proportion of internally displaced populations in many countries racked by internal conflicts such as Afghanistan, Angola, and Liberia. In Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sudan many children were forcibly recruited to engage in combat; however, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone, the Governments began demobilizing child soldiers as part of the process of conflict resolution in those countries.

Governments continued to ratify International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labor faster than any convention in the ILO's history. By year's end, 133 nations had deposited instruments of ratification. The Convention was adopted by the United States in 1999 and ratified in 2000. Among the countries that have yet to ratify the convention, Sudan continued to use forced child labor.

Worker Rights: Trade union leaders continued to be targeted for killing and threats in Colombia, where 171 trade union leaders were killed, more than in the rest of the world combined. The United Nations reported that 73 percent of these trade union killings were committed by paramilitary groups. In Burma forced labor remained a widespread problem, although under international pressure the Government promulgated new regulations to curb the practice. China experienced increased labor unrest as frustrated factory workers seized factories--and at times managers--demanding back wages and fair play from management. A new law on trade unions directed the official All-China Federation of Trade Unions to shift its attention to collective bargaining and to represent workers' interests to management.

Russia promulgated a new Labor Code that appeared to weaken the role of independent unions and leave all unions vulnerable to management domination. In Guatemala several killings of trade union leaders remained unsolved, and workers attempting to organize a union were physically intimidated. However, the Government of Guatemala enacted Labor Code reforms that brought the country a step closer to compliance with international standards.

In Vietnam apparel factories experimented with a voluntary private code of labor standards designed to improve working conditions and certify the results to buyers in the United States and Europe.

Trafficking in Persons: The abhorrent practice of trafficking of more than 700,000 men, women, and children each year affected almost every country and remained one of the most serious human rights problems facing the world.

Women and children from Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, and Southeast Asia have become the primary targets of transnational criminal elements, including traffickers. Abducted by force or ensnared through misrepresentation, fraud, or coercion, trafficking victims are transported throughout the world, where they are forced to work in substandard conditions in factories, as domestic or farm laborers, or are exploited sexually. The abductions of men, women, and children from minority southern tribes in Sudan for forced labor and ransom remained a matter of grave concern.

A number of governments took steps to combat trafficking in persons, although much remains to be done. In South Korea, for example, over 50 district Public Prosecutor's Offices designated special prosecutors for trafficking and have been operating joint crackdown teams for trafficking-related crimes. Several countries in southeastern Europe have focused efforts to deal with the problem, despite significant resource constraints. For example, Albania created and passed a comprehensive National Strategy on Anti-Trafficking, which charts its course for dealing with trafficking, and Romania enacted a law that prohibits trafficking in persons. The Economic Community of West African States adopted a Political Declaration and Action Plan with achievable goals and objectives. The Philippines also drew up an action plan to combat this growing transnational crime and violation of human rights.

Signaling the U.S. Government's commitment, the State Department released its first Trafficking in Persons Report in July and formally opened the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in November. By the end of the year, there were over 100 signatories to the U.N. Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, and 80 signatories to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Both agreements offer multilateral frameworks for addressing these horrific practices.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Partnerships among governments, business, labor unions, and civil society to promote human rights and address corporate responsibility grew during the year and gained new adherents. The U.N. Global Compact combined the resources of the private sector, working in conjunction with labor, civil society, and governments, toward corporate responsibility in the area of human rights. Multilateral financial institutions began to address more consistently the issues surrounding corporate responsibility.

During the year, positive examples of partnerships between the private and public sectors emerged. Chevron-Texaco, Conoco, Freeport MacMoRan, BP, Shell, and Rio Tinto together with human rights and corporate responsibility groups and the U.S. and British Governments worked to integrate and implement the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights. The Government of the Netherlands joined this effort in December. Responding to media and other reports of forced child labor in West African cocoa plantations, companies and associations in the chocolate industry lent support to government and NGO initiatives to address child trafficking and child labor. Other efforts to improve labor conditions and worker rights also continued as various industries worked with NGO's and governments to implement voluntary codes of conduct and factory monitoring systems.

III. Human Rights in the 21st Century

The pervasiveness of global terrorism became shockingly apparent with the events of September 11. The events strengthened the argument made by the United States and our international partners that we were engaged in a struggle to defend our freedoms and values. Moreover along with the need to defend ourselves came the growing awareness that terrorism has been gaining adherents for some time in countries where human rights are denied and civil liberties are repressed. The citizens in many of these countries also lack economic opportunity.

Extending the benefits of globalization, therefore, has added a new dimension to the challenge that we face in defending our values. The benefits of taking part in the global economy--the exchange of goods and technology, the creation of jobs and an educated workforce--are apparent. Stable, democratic governments offer the clearest path to the economic growth and prosperity that nations and their people seek. Ending corruption, assuring the observance of the rule of law, and providing fair judicial recourse are central to economic development and contribute to good corporate governance.

The U.S. Government's steadfast commitment to human rights and democracy was left unshaken by September 11. Indeed these events further strengthened our resolve to help ensure these rights for people everywhere. We will continue to press for human rights, democratic processes, and civil liberties in all countries using the range of tools available to us. We will continue to monitor and report accurately and comprehensively on human rights around the globe. We will continue to work to integrate human rights concerns--such as religious freedom, press freedom, good governance, worker rights, respect for women, and combating trafficking in persons--into our foreign policy and programs. And we will accelerate our programming work to assist other countries in improving human rights infrastructure and policies.

To accomplish these goals and achieve sustainable results, we will need partners. The emergence of a vibrant, global civil society over the past three decades has contributed to our efforts, as have our traditional partners--governments. The private sector also has an important role to play. They appreciate, as we do, that countries that respect democracy and human rights are stable and secure, and thus good investment environments. As the events of the past year illustrate, the protection and promotion of human rights can no longer be considered the purview of governments and NGO's alone. A partnership of governments, NGO's, and the private sector will be necessary to win the fight to ensure the observance of universal human rights in the 21st century.

Lorne W. Craner
Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and LaboR



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