By law we must submit the Country Reports to Congress by February 25. To comply with this requirement, we provide guidance to U.S. diplomatic missions in July for submission of draft reports in September and October, which we update at year's end as necessary. Other offices in the Department of State provide contributions, and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor prepares a final draft. Because of the preparation time required, it is possible that year-end developments may not be reflected fully. We make every effort to include references to major events or significant changes in trends.
We have attempted to make the reports as comprehensive, objective and uniform as possible in both scope and quality of coverage. We have paid particular attention to attaining a high standard of consistency in the reports despite the multiplicity of sources and the obvious problems associated with varying degrees of access to information, structural differences in political and social systems, and differing trends in world opinion regarding human rights practices in specific countries.
Evaluating the credibility of reports of human rights abuses often is difficult. With the exception of some terrorist organizations, most opposition groups and certainly most governments deny that they commit human rights abuses and sometimes go to great lengths to conceal any evidence of such acts. There are often few eyewitnesses to specific abuses, and they frequently are intimidated or otherwise prevented from reporting what they know. On the other hand, individuals and groups opposed to a particular government sometimes have powerful incentives to exaggerate or fabricate abuses, and some governments similarly distort or exaggerate abuses attributed to opposition groups. We have made every effort to identify those groups (for example, government forces or terrorists) that are believed, based on all the evidence available, to have committed human rights abuses. Where credible evidence is lacking, we have tried to indicate why it is not available. Many governments that profess to oppose human rights abuses in fact secretly order or tacitly condone them or simply lack the will or the ability to control those responsible for them. Consequently, in judging a government's policy, the reports look beyond statements of policy or intent and examine what a government has done to prevent human rights abuses, including the extent to which it investigates, brings to trial, and appropriately punishes those who commit such abuses.
To increase uniformity, the introduction of each country's report contains a brief setting that provides the context for reviewing its human rights performance. A description of the political framework and the role of security agencies in human rights is followed by a brief paragraph on the economy. The introduction concludes with an overview of human rights developments during the calendar year that mentions specific areas (for example, torture, freedom of speech and of the press, discrimination) where abuses and problems occurred.
We have continued the effort from previous years to expand coverage of human rights problems affecting women, children, persons with disabilities, and indigenous people in the reports. The appropriate section of each country report discusses any abuses that are targeted specifically against women (for example, rape or other violence perpetrated by governmental or organized opposition forces, or discriminatory laws or regulations). In Section 5, we discuss socioeconomic discrimination; discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS; societal violence against women, children, homosexuals, persons with disabilities, or ethnic minorities; and the efforts, if any, of governments to combat these problems.
The following notes on specific section headings in each country report are not meant to be comprehensive descriptions of each subject but to provide an overview of the key issues covered and to show the overall organization of subjects:
Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life--Includes killings in which there is evidence of government involvement without due process of law or of political motivation by a government or by opposition groups. Also covers extrajudicial killings (for example, the unlawful and deliberate killing of individuals carried out by order of a government or with its complicity), as well as killings committed by police or security forces that resulted in the unintended death of persons without due process of law (for example, mistargeted bombing or shelling or killing of bystanders). In general, excludes combat deaths and killings by common criminals, if the likelihood of political motivation can be ruled out (see also "Internal Conflicts" below). Although mentioned briefly here, deaths in detention due to official negligence are covered in detail in the section on "Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."
Disappearance--Covers cases in which political motivation appears likely and in which the victims have not been found or perpetrators have not been identified. Cases eventually classified as political killings in which the bodies of those missing are discovered also are covered in the above section, while those eventually identified as arrest or detention may be covered under "Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile."
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment--Covers torture (an act of intentionally inflicting severe pain, whether physical or mental) and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, committed by or at the instigation of government forces or opposition groups. Concentrates discussion on actual practices, not on whether they fit any precise definition, and includes use of physical and other force that may fall short of torture but which is cruel, inhuman, or degrading. Covers prison conditions, including information based on international standards, and deaths in prison due to negligence by government officials.
Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile--Covers cases in which detainees, including political detainees, are held in official custody without being charged or, if charged, are denied a public preliminary judicial hearing within a reasonable period. Also discusses whether, and under what circumstances, governments exile citizens.
Denial of Fair Public Trial--Describes briefly the court system and evaluates whether there is an independent judiciary and whether trials are both fair and public (failure to hold any trial is noted in the section above). Includes discussion of "political prisoners" (political detainees are covered with arbitrary detention), defined as those convicted and imprisoned essentially for political beliefs or nonviolent acts of dissent or expression, regardless of the actual legal charge. Also includes the systemic failure of a government to enforce court orders with respect to restitution or compensation for the taking of private property under domestic law.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence--Discusses the "passive" right of the individual to noninterference by the State. Includes the right to receive foreign publications, for example, while the right to publish is discussed under "Freedom of Speech and Press." Includes the right to be free from coercive population control measures, including coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization but does not include cultural or traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, which are addressed in Section 5.
Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal and External Conflicts--An optional section for use in describing abuses that occur in countries experiencing significant internal or external armed conflict. Includes indiscriminate, nonselective killings arising from excessive use of force, or by the shelling of villages (deliberate, targeted killing is discussed in the section on "Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life"). Also includes abuses against civilian noncombatants. For countries where use of this section would be inappropriate, that is where there is no significant internal or external conflict, lethal use of excessive force by security forces is discussed in the section on "Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life"; nonlethal excessive force is discussed in the section on "Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment."
Freedom of Speech and Press--Evaluates whether these freedoms exist and describes any direct or indirect restrictions. Includes discussion of Internet and academic freedom.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association--Evaluates the ability of individuals and groups (including political parties) to exercise these freedoms. Includes the ability of trade associations, professional bodies, and similar groups to maintain relations or affiliate with recognized international bodies in their fields. The right of labor to associate, organize, and bargain collectively is discussed under the section on "Worker Rights" (see Appendix B).
Freedom of Religion--Discusses whether the Constitution or laws provide for the right of citizens of any religious belief to worship free of government interference and whether the government generally respects that right. Includes the freedom to publish religious documents in foreign languages; addresses the treatment of foreign clergy and whether religious belief or lack thereof affects membership in a ruling party, a career in government, or ability to obtain services and privileges available to other citizens. The annual International Religious Freedom Report supplements the information in this section.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation--Includes discussion of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); "refugees" may refer to persons displaced by civil strife or natural disaster as well as persons who are "refugees" within the meaning of the Refugee Act of 1980, that is, persons with a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of origin or, if stateless, in their country of habitual residence, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government--Discusses the extent to which citizens have freedom of political choice and have the legal right and ability in practice to change the laws and officials that govern them. Assesses whether elections are free and fair.
Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights--Discusses whether the government permits the free functioning of local human rights groups (including the right to investigate and publish their findings on alleged human rights abuses), whether these groups are subject to reprisal by government or other forces, and whether government officials are cooperative and responsive to their views. Also discusses whether the government grants access to and cooperates with outside entities (including foreign human rights organizations, international organizations, and foreign governments) interested in human rights developments in the country.
Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status--Contains a subheading on Women, Children, and Persons with Disabilities. As appropriate also includes subheadings on National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities, Indigenous People and Incitement to Acts of Discrimination. Discrimination against other groups is discussed in the introductory paragraph(s) of the section. Addresses discrimination and abuses not discussed elsewhere in the report, focusing on laws, regulations, or state practices that are inconsistent with equal access to housing, employment, education, health care, or other governmental benefits for members of specific groups. (Abuses by government or opposition forces, such as killing, torture and other violence, or restriction of voting rights or free speech targeted against specific groups would be discussed under the appropriate preceding sections.) Discusses societal violence against women, e.g., "dowry deaths," "honor killings," wife beating, rape, female genital mutilation, and government tolerance of such under the subheading on women. Discusses the extent to which the law provides for, and the government enforces, equality of economic opportunity for women. Discusses violence or other abuse against children under that subheading. Discusses the extent to which persons with disabilities, including persons with mental disabilities, are subject to discrimination in, among other things, employment, education, and the provision of other government services.
Worker Rights -- See Appendix B.
In some instances, this year's Country Reports use the word "Islamist," which should be interpreted by readers as a Muslim who supports Islamic values and beliefs as the basis for political and social life.
Since the Secretary of State designates foreign groups or organizations as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) on the FTO list, only those groups on the FTO list dated May 23, 2003 will be described as "terrorists" in the reports.
When describing whether a government provides "protection against refoulement," the reports are referring to the international legal principle that prohibits states from expelling or returning a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his or her life or freedom would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
Subject headings in these reports are used to introduce general topics, and the report text that follows such headings is intended to describe facts generally relevant to those topics and is not intended to reach conclusions of a legal character.