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Diplomacy in Action

2008 Human Rights Report: Overview and Acknowledgements


Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report
February 25, 2009

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Why the Reports Are Prepared

This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended. The law provides that the 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 "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." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.

In the early 1970s the United States formalized its responsibility to speak out on behalf of international human rights standards. In 1976 Congress enacted legislation creating a Coordinator of Human Rights in the Department of State, a position later upgraded to Assistant Secretary. In 1994 the Congress created a position of Senior Advisor for Women's Rights. Legislation also requires that U.S. foreign and trade policy take into account countries' human rights and worker rights performance and that country reports be submitted to the Congress on an annual basis.

How the Reports Are Prepared

In 1993 the Secretary of State strengthened the human rights efforts of our embassies by asking all sections to contribute information and corroborate reports of human rights violations, and there was a renewed effort to link mission programming to the advancement of human rights and democracy. In 1994 the Department of State reorganized the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, renaming it the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. This move reflected both a broader sweep and a more focused approach to the interlocking issues of human rights, worker rights and democracy. As part of that effort, the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices represent the bureau's continuing effort to report human rights violations. The reports reflect the work by hundreds of State Department and other U.S. Government employees, both in Washington and abroad.

Our overseas U.S. missions, which prepared the initial drafts of the reports, gathered information throughout the year from a variety of sources across the political spectrum. These sources included government officials, jurists, the armed forces, journalists, human rights monitors, academics, and labor activists. This information gathering can be hazardous, and U.S. Foreign Service personnel regularly go to great lengths, under trying and sometimes dangerous conditions, to investigate reports of human rights abuse, monitor elections, and come to the aid of individuals at risk, such as political dissidents and human rights defenders whose rights are threatened by their governments.

After completing their drafts, State Department missions abroad sent them to Washington for review by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in cooperation with other Department of State offices. As they worked to corroborate, analyze, and edit the reports, Department officers drew on their own sources of information. These included reports provided by U.S. and other human rights groups, foreign government officials, representatives from the United Nations and other international and regional organizations and institutions, experts from academia, and the media. Officers also consulted with experts on worker rights, refugee issues, military and police topics, women's issues, and legal matters. The guiding principle was to ensure that all information was assessed objectively, thoroughly, and fairly.

The reports in this volume will be used as a resource for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy, and making assistance, training, and other resource allocations. They also will serve as a basis for the U.S. Government's cooperation with private groups to promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices cover internationally recognized civil, political and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights include freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, from prolonged detention without charges, from disappearance or clandestine detention, and from other flagrant violations of the right to life, liberty and the security of the person.

Universal human rights seek to incorporate respect for human dignity into the processes of government and law. All persons have the right to nationality, the inalienable right to change their government by peaceful means and to enjoy basic freedoms, such as freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement, and religion, without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. The right to join a free trade union is a necessary condition of a free society and economy. Thus the reports assess key internationally recognized worker rights, including the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, the prohibition of forced or compulsory labor, the status of child labor practices, the minimum age for employment of children, and acceptable work conditions.

Within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the editorial staff of the Country Reports Team consists of: Editor in Chief Stephen Eisenbraun; Office Directors: Bruce Connuck, Kay Mayfield, and Michael Orona; Senior Editors: Jonathan Bemis, Douglas B. Dearborn, Daniel Dolan, Jerome L. Hoganson, Patricia Meeks Schnell, Julie Turner, and Rachel Waldstein; Editors: Naim Ahmed, Sabrina Bahir, Joseph S. Barghout, Katherine Berglund, Sarah Beringer, Alisha Bhagat, Sarah Buckley, Laura Carey, Elise Carlson-Rainer, Ebenezer Concepcion, Sharon C. Cooke, Susan Corke, Stuart Crampton, Frank B. Crump, Mollie Davis, Cortney Dell, Morton Dworken, Jennifer Evans, Verinda Fike, Joan Garner, Karen Gilbride, Jeffrey Glassman, Edward Grulich, Cheryl Harris, Patrick Harvey, Matthew Hickey, Alexandra Hoey, Victor Huser, Stan Ifshin, Sami Jiries, Simone Joseph, Jennifer King, Jane Kim, Sidney Kwiram, Lawrence Lesser, Jessica Lieberman, Katie McLain, John McKane, Michael McKenna, Gregory Maggio, Jessica Megill, Nicole Morales, David Mikosz, Leonel Miranda, Stephen E. Moody, Jennie Munoz, Sandra Murphy, Daniel L. Nadel, Catherine Newling, Susan O’Sullivan,  Meredith Pierce, Drue Preissman, Peter Sawchyn, Amy Schmisseur, Wendy Silverman, Erin Spitzer, Rachel Spring, Brian Stout, James Todd, Rachel Waldstein, Nicole Wilett, Mikel Wood, and Isabelle Zsoldos; Contributing Editor: Lynne Davidson; Editorial Assistants: Adrienne Bory, Karen Chen, Carol Finerty, Elizabeth Mokaba, and Kimberly Jorgensen; and Technical Assistant Eunice Johnson.



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