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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to the Press on the Release of the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices


Remarks
Michael H. Posner
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
April 8, 2011

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ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Thank you, Madam Secretary.  I want to just start by saying a few words of acknowledgement.  As Secretary Clinton said, this is a mammoth undertaking.  The report covers 194 countries in the world.  It’s over 2 million words long, in excess of 7,000 pages.  It’s the reflection of tens of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of people, both here in the Department and by human – by Foreign Service officers throughout the world.  And I want to say a special thanks to the people in our bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, who’ve worked so hard over many months to make the report as excellent as it is, and in particular the overall editor and chief architect of it, Steve Eisenbraun.  For the last five years, Steve has really driven this process.

I want to just say a couple of words about the purpose of the report.  Originally in the 1970s, two members of Congress, Don Fraser and Tom Harkin, now Senator Harkin, introduced legislation in Congress linking human rights to security and economic aid.  The report came out of that, a desire to inform Congress of what’s happening in the world vis-a-vis these decisions about foreign assistance.  Now it’s much more.  It is the single most exhaustive report by human rights done by anyone anywhere in the world, and it is based on a notion of fidelity to the truth.

This is not a policy-making document.  It’s a document to give us a clear and honest picture of what’s going on and a basis for a range of decisions by this government and others in terms of how to address human rights challenges we face in the world.  It doesn’t include a section on the United States, but we are committed, as Secretary Clinton has said many times, to lead by example on these issues.  And just last month, Harold Koh, the legal advisor here, and one of my deputies, Dan Baer, were in Geneva to complete a six-month process of submitting the United States to a process called the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council, where, for the first time, we presented a comprehensive evaluation of U.S. progress and U.S. issues relating to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We did that after extensive consultation with our own civil society, took comments from a range of other governments, came back last month and provided a range of ways in which we’re addressing our own domestic situation.

I want to just say a couple of words, and then I’m going to take your questions, about the trends that Secretary Clinton mentioned.  The restrictions against NGOs:  In the last several years we’ve seen more than 90 countries impose new restrictions on nongovernmental organizations.  These laws often are burdensome restrictions on registration or the right to receive foreign funding.  This week, for example, we’re in a diplomatic negotiation with the Government of Cambodia, which is now considering adopting a new law to this effect, which would make it much more difficult for Cambodian human rights and other organizations to operate.  In July last year, Secretary Clinton gave a speech on this at the Community of Democracies in Krakow.  We’ve set up a fund calling the Endangered NGO Fund, and we’ve now gotten a number of other governments – the Dutch, the Poles, the Chileans, the Lithuanians – to join us in funding a collective effort to address this problem.

The second subject is internet freedom, and certainly if there are lessons from the so-called Arab Spring, it’s both that the internet and these new technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity for activists to communicate with each other, to mobilize, to organize, but also that there are risks attendant to these new technologies.  Our internet policy is based on an open, neutral platform for communication, whether it’s by human rights activists, by commercial interests for innovation or whatever.  But we also recognize that we need to do more diplomatically, through our funding and support for groups that are involved in human rights using the internet, and also to work with NGOs directly and with companies.  We’re doing all of that through an internet freedom initiative that the Secretary announced in a speech in February.  And I’m very proud of it.  I think it’s one of the most important things we’re doing.

And finally, the third aspect of this report, the third trend that we talked about, the discrimination against vulnerable groups.  What we’re seeing in many places in the world – Pakistan, she mentioned, in China, in Tibet, and Xinjiang with the Uyghurs, in places around Africa, where the LGBT communities are under threat, in places in Europe or the Middle East, where anti-Semitism still flourishes – we’re seeing that these issues of discrimination that divide often lead to conflict.  And what we need to do and what we are doing is addressing these issues again by our diplomacy, our public diplomacy and privately, and also trying to focus particularly on education and on the media, which plays such an important part either in fueling these conflicts or trying to address them in constructive ways.  Let me stop there, and I’m happy to take your questions, please.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  Sir, in your Near East section, you cover Iran, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and Libya.  But there is no mention of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  So do you believe that –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  I’m sorry.  No mention of –

QUESTION:  There’s no mention of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.  My question to you, sir, do you believe that Israel adheres to good or maintains good human rights practices toward the Palestinians?  And conversely, does the Palestinian Authority maintain proper and good human rights practices toward its Palestinian citizens?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  We, in fact – I guess you’re looking at the introduction.  We have a section both on Israel and a separate section on the territories, and in the section on the territories, we comment both on human rights problems, violations by the Palestinian Authority, by Hamas, and by the Government of Israel.  So yes, we’re very mindful of it.  There are a range of issues, challenges on all of those fronts, and we continue to be very active in addressing those issues. 

Yeah.

QUESTION:  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the – that you did include the United States in last year’s report.  Can you say why that was excluded this time?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  The report done last year on trafficking in persons included a U.S. section.  We’ve never done it here. 

QUESTION:  Right.  Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  And what we’ve done, essentially, is to, instead, focus – at least for this year – on the Universal Periodic Review.  We’re also going to be submitting, in the next couple of months, reports under a couple of treaties – the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will come first, and then our report on the Convention Against All Forms of Torture.

QUESTION:  And then just if I can –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Separate topic, in a number of the cases, a number of the sections on countries that have seen uprisings this year, the first line is, "Inability to change their governments."  Can you kind of talk a little bit about how some of the conditions you saw last year may have led to what we’re seeing this year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Sure.  One of the things that I – one of the countries I’ve devoted probably more attention to than any is Egypt.  I was there twice in 2010, in January and October, and commented on – publicly there – on a range of concerns we had about systemic human rights problems, including the state of emergency, including problems with state security police, including detention policy and the like.  All of those things are documented in detail in this report on 2010.  And obviously, those were some of the things – important piece of why people took to the square in January, and this led to change.

Please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I know the report says that you can’t generalize.  A lot of the countries that were swept up with this in the Mid-East and North Africa are very different.  But is there any type of overall trend that you – as you look at this now that could say a general improvement because of these revolutions?  And bearing in mind, again, it’s a 2010 report, but you did have some new information.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  I guess I would say, first of all, I’m a chronic optimist.  I’ve been in the human rights world for 30-some years, and I always believe that – I look for what’s possible.  And what I see that’s possible and that is a trend in the Middle East is that you have individual citizens who have operated and lived in very closed societies who are demanding change.  They’re demanding change in a couple of ways.  They’re seeking more of a stake and a role in the governance of their country.  They want to be involved more in the political side.  And they’re also seeking greater economic opportunity.  They want to live in dignity.  They want to be treated fairly.  Those are human rights aspirations.  And although the particulars in the countries are very different, and the outcomes may be very different, what’s interesting is how much what started in Tunisia has now spread across the region, and in some cases, against all odds people have said, "We really want our voices to be heard."  I think that’s an optimistic trend, and again, we will wait and see how it turns out, but it’s certainly something we’re encouraging. 

Yes.

QUESTION:  Yes, sir.  This report has been coming out for the last 38 years.  Millions of people now in China, including Tibetans and so many other minorities, are seeking and want to come out, but each time they are repressed, and because like you said, many societies are closed societies.  China is maybe the most closed society on the globe.  What message do you have those people who want to come out just like the rest of the world in the Middle East and Tunisia and also Libya?  They want to come out, and they have been suppressed as far as their human rights and basic rights are concerned.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  One of the things that’s very interesting to me and important is the extent to which people around the world pay attention to what we say, and in particular, in these reports.  We get – I think the State Department may get more traffic to these reports today and in the coming weeks than almost anything we produce.  What that reflects is that people are hungry for the truth about their own societies and about what’s going on in the world.  That’s why this report is so important. 

The Chinese Government, as Secretary Clinton said earlier this week, arrested a renowned artist, Ai Weiwei.  And yesterday in commenting on that case, they said, "Oh, this is not a human rights case.  This has nothing to do with human rights."  No, it does.  This is an individual, a peaceful dissenter who has been critical of the government.  He’s a prominent artist and is well known not only in China but around the world.  We’ve called for his immediate release.  We will continue to do it. 

We’ll continue to raise cases like Gao Zhisheng, the human rights lawyer who’s been missing for a year now, disappeared last April; like Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Prize winner who’s gotten an 11-year sentence.  And people in China hear that.  They know it.  They find that out.  It reinforces their own call for freedom.

And so we are not going to be shy about these things.  Secretary – Assistant Secretary Campbell, Kurt Campbell, was in China yesterday.  He had meetings with the foreign minister and at least a couple of other senior officials.  He raised these cases.  We’re going to continue to do that because this is what we consider an important part of our diplomacy.

Yes, please.

QUESTION:  One more just to follow. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Okay.

QUESTION:  On Thailand, sir – thank you – in Thailand, millions of Hindus are under attack as far as human rights are concerned and now so many demonstrations have gone and thousands and thousands of people in Thailand on the streets and also here.  In Maryland, they had a function at Hindu American Foundation.  What they are asking is the Secretary should take action as far as human rights or the minority – especially Hindus in Thailand – and nobody is paying any attention.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Well, we are paying attention.  The report reflects that.  And it’s also, again, another example of a situation – there are many, many in the world where there are divisions based on ethnicity, religion, race, whatever.  Again, these are things that fuel differences, fuel conflict.  It’s the responsibility of governments everywhere to be trying to figure out how to mitigate those differences and how to create a human rights standard that allows people to be different but to coexist.

Yes, please.

QUESTION:  Could you elaborate on the situation – human rights situation in Russia that the Secretary mentioned, especially related to the upcoming elections in December?  Some critics have argued that the reset is being conducted at the expense of human rights and democracy.  And more specifically with regard to Belarus, which is also detailed, the U.S. has imposed visa bans on the most – on the senior human rights violators.  Is the same measure possible and being considered towards Russian human rights violators?

Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  We are very mindful and very concerned about an increasingly negative human rights environment in Russia.  My – one of my deputies, Tom Melia, was out there last week, in fact.  Part of what we’re seeing is a crackdown on dissenters, the so-called Strategy 31 protestors, who every 31st – month go out and demonstrate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other places.  March 31st there were demonstrations in seven cities, and there was a crackdown, in particular, in St. Petersburg. 

We continue to follow those cases.  We raise concerns with the government as Tom did last week.  We’re also concerned about some of the more public cases like Magnitsky, who died in prison.  We continue to call for an investigation.  Estemirova – Natalia Estemirova, who – in Chechnya, was monitoring what was happening and was killed because of her advocacy.  So there are a range of concerns there, and we will continue to raise them.

In Belarus, you had an election last December, and Lukashenko crackdown arrested dozens of people, including five of his opposition candidates.  There’s a very grim scene there now where it’s very, very difficult for people to operate, which is why we’ve enacted these sanctions.  We continue to be very resolute.  We’re working with our European allies on this.  The human rights situation there is of grave concern to us.

QUESTION:  Is it possible for (inaudible) to be (inaudible)?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  I don’t – we have not discussed that.

Yes, please.

QUESTION:  Hi.  You list a slew of human rights problems in Bahrain.  I’m wondering how limited you think you are in your ability to influence Bahrain by the presence of the Fifth Fleet and the national security concerns.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  We – I was in Bahrain with the Secretary in December.  Again, one of my deputies, Kathy Fitzpatrick, was out there in January.  We are very mindful of what has really been a deteriorating situation over months in terms of the climate for the kind of dialogue that the Crown Prince has asked for.  We are very concerned about the continued arrest and detention of peaceful critics, including some leaders of the political opposition, the fact that some senior newspaper executives have been dismissed and the like.  Those things, I think, make it harder for the dialogue to begin.

We’re also mindful that on the other side, it’s imperative that those who’ve been demonstrating not resort to violence themselves.  But we’re at a point now where, as close as we may have come six weeks or two months ago to having that dialogue started, we really need people on all sides of this to begin thinking about what are the confidence-building measures that will bring people back into a dialogue.  There are a range of very real issues that need to be addressed.  They’re not going to be addressed only by security measures.  And that message has been communicated by people here and in other parts of our government.  We are eager to work with our allies in Bahrain, the government, but we’re also very mindful that the situation – the human rights situation is serious.

QUESTION:  Can I just follow up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Do they – do you get the sense that they are receptive to your message?  I mean, they – you need them more than they need you. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Well, I wouldn’t characterize it that way.  And I also wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily a unified response in the government.  I think there is a recognition, certainly by some senior people in the government, that where we are right now is not conducive to addressing the challenges.  And it’s important that there be a resumption of, or a creation of an environment where there can be a dialogue to address the fundamental issues that people who took to the streets are asking about.  There’s a – there are a set of issues that need to be discussed.  They have to be discussed at a table where people are willing to come and really talk about differences and how to resolve them.  We’re not there, but we’re certainly encouraging all sides to try to get there.  

Please.

QUESTION:  Can I ask you two quick questions?  One, given the important role that the internet played in the revolutions in Northern Africa and the Middle East, are you worried that governments will crack down even harder on internet access?  And secondly, if I may, separately, there have been reports of clashes near the Iraqi-Iranian border at Camp Ashraf.  I’m sure you’re familiar with it.  What have you learned about this and what can you tell us?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  On the internet question, we’re spending a lot of time trying to stay ahead of the curve here and trying to keep track of what governments are doing.  Governments that seek control and that are nervous about dissent are increasingly looking for ways to control the internet.  There’s a narrative, and it’s part of the history of this, that some governments – the Chinese would be an example, or the Iranians – put up a firewall; that’s true.  And one of the things we’re doing is to support technologies, circumvention technologies that allow people to get access to the internet.  In fact, we had some – review of some funding applications yesterday, and there are some fantastic technologies that we’re now supporting financially. 

But the other piece, which I think has been underreported or under-understood, is that most governments aren’t going to shut down the internet; they’re simply going to go after the people who use it that are dissenters.  So they hack into their computers.  They take their cell phones when they’re arrested and they grab the list of names that are in their address book.  They use every technical capacity they have to invade privacy, to monitor what these dissenters are doing.  And in a lot of cases, people who are using the internet in these societies aren’t sufficiently mindful either of what their possibilities are technically to protect themselves or what the risks are.  So we’re doing a huge amount of training.  We’ve trained 5,000 people from every region of the world on what are the new opportunities and risks with the internet.  I’m really excited about this.  I think it’s one of the most innovative things we’re doing, and other governments are coming to us and saying, "How are you doing this?  We want to be involved."  This is part of this internet freedom funding initiative.

On the – I’m sorry.  The second question was about --

QUESTION:  It relates to reported attacks in Iraq –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Oh.  Oh, in – yeah.

QUESTION:  Yeah.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  This morning, we got reports of further attacks at Camp Ashraf.  Secretary Gates was in Iraq today, expressed concern about the violence.  At this stage, I know our Embassy in Baghdad has been in contact with Iraqi officials, but I don’t have more details of exactly what happened or why.  But I can assure you it’s something we’re very mindful of.  And Secretary Gates, on the scene, was very quick to raise concerns about the loss of life. 

Yeah.  Please, in the back.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  How do you view the human rights record in Libya, Yemen, and Syria at this time?  Not, as the report mentioned, for last year, 2010.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Well, each – let me take each of those.  Libya, obviously, we have for the last 35 years reported on a pattern of human rights abuses by the Qadhafi government.  And those abuses continued in 2010 and were part of what – I would say a large part of what led people to take to the streets and create the beginning of what’s now become a very violent and very dangerous situation.  We continue to be, obviously, involved both on a military side through the no-fly and so forth, but also diplomatically.  And I think our greatest hope is that, as Musa Kusa and other officials, senior officials, have started to bail out, we’re going to see other defections.  And through some combination of the NATO operation and these various diplomatic initiatives, including by the Arab League, we’re going to see some resolution of this.  It is not going to be easy, but we are, obviously, very mindful of the human rights consequences of this and the humanitarian consequences.  There are very real risks to a large number of people in these areas where the fighting is going on.

In Syria, again, we have had decades of human rights violations, a very restrictive political environment, a very difficult security police, which has crack downed on dissent for many, many years.  We had reports again this morning of some violence in Syria.  We’re tracking that very closely.  Our new ambassador there is raising these issues with authorities, but again, people in the country have said we want something different, and that’s part of what we’re facing there.

The third country you mentioned is Yemen, and there probably in the region outside of Libya is no country where we have greater anxieties over the violence, including violence perpetuated by government forces.  That violence is not subsiding, and I can’t tell you that I have an answer for it, but we’re certainly tracking and monitoring what’s going on on an hourly basis. 

QUESTION:  (Off mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  Please.

QUESTION:  What are the most concerning facts in regards with human rights in Mexico, and how do you think the war on drugs is maybe deteriorating this situation of human rights? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  I visited Mexico twice last year for bilateral discussions with the Mexican Government.  A lot of the focus was on exactly that question.  We met with senior military officials.  One of the challenges Mexico faces in fighting the drug violence is – has been the relative weakness of local police, and therefore the army has come into play, in effect, a policing role in urban neighborhoods.  I think it’s fair to say that the army is not thrilled to be in that role.  And one of the challenges is for Mexico, I think, is over the medium and long-term, how to build up a stronger national police that have particular expertise in how to fight these very violent drug criminals and to allow the army to go back to doing what it was trained to do.

We have raised issues there about some of the excesses by the military.  One of the things they’ve said to us is that local courts aren’t very effective in prosecuting people.  And so there is a real set of challenges there and we – our Embassy there is very involved in these things.  The only other thing I would mention that concerned me quite a bit is that a number of the human rights activists and monitors have themselves been targeted, and that’s a distressing signal.  I think it’s really important you have a very vibrant local human rights community.  Those people need to be able to continue to speak out forcefully, even if it’s critical of the government, along with the National Commission on Human Rights, which does a very good job, but we’re watching that very closely as well. 

QUESTION:  Do you believe the military in Mexico must be more open and transparent in regards with the information about the way that is processing the people?  And maybe do you believe the militaries that occur in these type of violations must be trial in civil courts? 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  Well, part of our dialogue – and I was part of some of these and a counterpart in DOD has also gone.  I think there have been three or four of these meetings – is exactly on those issues.  We are encouraging greater transparency in looking at the particular cases where violations have been alleged.  And obviously, you want to break any notion of a cycle of impunity and make sure that there are prosecutions or discipline where excessive force has been used.  That’s the debate, but again, I’m not going to go into more detail than that.

Yeah.  Please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  I’d like to go to Turkey, if it’s possible.  It seems that it – Turkey case needs someone like you, a chronic optimist, to look to freedom of press issues in a better lens.  My question is only freedom of press in this Turkey report about 4 to 6 page, about 8, 9 pages, and in recent weeks there are nothing in this report that other events happened, confiscate a draft book or other issues.  Would you please comment on Turkey’s situation this year?  Thank you. 

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  Again, the report, I think, presents accurately a mixed picture in Turkey, as it should.  As you suggest, in the early months of this year there have been the arrests of several well known Turkish journalists in connection with Ergenekon trial, and we are – we’ve expressed concern to the Turkish Government of that.  We’ll continue to do so, and those events will be reflected in our 2011 report. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) sits a journalist only arrested because of anti-terror laws, and Turkish authorities just yesterday in the town was rejecting any kind of suggestion to change this kind of law.  Is --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Well, we’re – there’s – the anti-terror law has both some provisions that cause us concern but also some things that we’re pleased about.  For example, it’s resulted in the release of hundreds of young people from jails.  So this is a new law, enacted last year, being implemented.  And we’re going to, again, communicate with the government that we are both trying to encourage the aspects of it that are reform oriented and also be mindful of the things that restrict basic human rights.

In the back, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Mr. Posner, what the U.S. expect should happen with the release of this report in the countries that were, like, highlighted for not respecting the human rights?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Well, I guess I would say three things.  One is that the report itself gives our diplomats an opportunity to go into other governments and engage in a conversation.  We do it all year, but here we’re now putting out a sort of comprehensive list of things that are the subject of diplomatic bilateral discussion, point one.

Second thing, it is for us then, as I said at the outset, a baseline to begin to figure out what are the things throughout the year that we need to do on a bilateral basis and a multilateral basis.  We haven’t talked very much about the multilateral side.  But we are increasingly involved at the UN Human Rights Council, in various other intergovernmental bodies.  These reports are also a basis for those international organizations, and we can use them to that effect.

And then the third piece, which I think in some ways may be the most important, is that this – these documents, this report, gives people outside of government – whether they’re journalists or human rights activists or others – an opportunity to basically take information that’s been digested and analyzed by the U.S. Government and use it in ways that will help reinforce a human rights agenda.  The fact is that we – for all the work that goes into this report, the U.S. Government is an important audience, but there are many, many other audiences.  And I think people around the world increasingly find these reports as a very useful departure point for their own advocacy.

What’s interesting also is that a lot of – clearly, a lot of governments don’t like this report.  They don’t like the criticism.  We stand by the facts.  This is a report based on facts.  And when governments come back and they say you’ve got a fact wrong, we stand ready to correct it.  But it’s very rare that that happens, which is, again, a credit to Steve Eisenbraun and the team that works on it.  We’ve worked very hard to get just the facts and get them straight.  And it provides, I think, as I say, for the range of audiences a chance to figure out what do you do based on these facts.

Yes, please.

QUESTION:  Can I ask one on North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Sure.

QUESTION:  Would you say that the situation there has improved or gotten worse over time?  And what can the U.S. do to help the situation, considering the lack of diplomatic presence there and information on the ground?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  The situation in North Korea is grim, grim, grim.  It is a highly controlled, closed society where any notion of dissent, any notion of public debate, any notion of free press or free assembly is simply not tolerated.  I don’t know that I would say it’s better or worse.  It’s poor.  It’s poor.  It’s dismal.  If there are some positive developments, they’re minor.  We are really dealing there with a government that has really tried to shut itself off from the world, and, in large measure, succeeded.  And so it’s one of the places – when you read these reports, it’s one of the places – I look at it and I go, "We really have not made much progress."

Please, in the back.

QUESTION:  Could you elaborate a little bit about the 40 countries that started restricting the use of media inside the country, what Secretary Clinton mentioned earlier?  How many countries?  Or, like, can you elaborate a little bit more what the list of countries that --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  I don’t have the list in front of me, but it ranges from governments that are using laws and regulations to restrict media or internet, and countries, through these various technical means, either the firewall or through imposition on people’s privacy, are really, in a systematic way, trying to limit free expression, free assembly, free association. 

Again, our view is that there ought to be an open internet, a neutral platform available to everybody in the world.  And there are many, many governments that are threatened by that, and --

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Please.

QUESTION:  No.  Can I say – that includes China and North Korea and the Middle East countries?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  It includes all of those and then some.

QUESTION:  Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  On Burma, after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the elections there, do you see any changes in the human rights situation in that country, or is just like North Korea?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  We are – we continue to be very concerned about the situation in Burma, especially, I would say, the continued detention of more than 2,000 political prisoners – we continue to call for their release – but also the very harsh and unreasonable restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi and her party.  So we have a long way to go there.  As you know, under the JADE Act, we are supposed to be appointing a special representative, and I think that’s about to happen, although it hasn’t been formally announced.  But that, I think, will be a signal of a kind of renewed effort on our part to revisit some of these questions and figure out where to go from here.

QUESTION:  And on India (inaudible), your report, detailed report, does mention about the Gujarat (inaudible) rights in 2002, and this also has a passing reference about the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.  What is U.S.’s stance on it?  Do you consider him personally responsible for those rights, a violation of human rights in Gujarat?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  I don’t think I have anything to add to what’s in the report on that, honestly. 

Yeah.  Please.

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you.  Every year, you present this report which brings a lot of cases of violations that should be condemned.  But every year, this report is questioned by many countries because there is no chapter about United States violations, and I could mention as an example Guantanamo – it’s a real example.  And the other point is the legitimacy of the United States to bring the world this type of document, this question also, because most of the countries say that it’s (inaudible) of United States about this subject, human rights.

I wanted to ask you, what should you say about today’s points, and I would like to ask you about the situation of Brazil in this topic.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  On the first question, as I said at the outset, the absence of a U.S. chapter on this report in no way suggests that we’re not willing to be scrutinized or to scrutinize ourselves. 

Last year, I led an effort here to undertake the first-ever look at the United States through this UN Universal Periodic Review.  We went to 16 cities, 18 sessions.  We talked to probably a thousand activists.  We went to the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan.  We went to the border states to talk to Mexican Americans.  We talked about prisons.  We talked here with the national security advocates about Guantanamo and about detention issues at Bagram and so forth.  And we produced a report, which I think is as good as any government’s done.  We subjected ourselves in November – I was there – to questions from a range of countries.  We’ve come back and answered them. 

So we are not in any way unwilling to hold ourselves accountable.  I worked outside of government for a lot of years, and I was one of those very critical of Guantanamo and of the torture policies.  Inside the government, I continue to be one, along with President Obama, who says we’ve got to close Guantanamo.  We’ve ended the policy of enhanced interrogation techniques.  We’re very mindful. 

And as, again, Secretary Clinton has said, we are determined to lead by example.  If somebody else would do this report, the United Nations or some other agency, and do it comprehensively and do it with the same commitment to the truth, we would be delighted.  Frankly, it would free up a lot of time in my office for us to do other things.  But nobody else is doing it.  And this is a valuable, valuable piece of work that provides information that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  It helps us do our work.  It helps our government make intelligent decisions.  And until somebody else figures out how to do it, we’re going to keep doing it.

QUESTION:  And what about Brazil?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  On Brazil, I --

QUESTION:  And the last question --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Again, the report, I think, reflects a mixed picture – a central government, a newly elected president with a clear commitment to these issues, but at a local level, a range of issues that still need to be resolved.

QUESTION:  Thank you. 

QUESTION:  The last question on close allies.  Pakistan is a close ally of the U.S.  We were here last year and we are here today.  A governor has lost his life, a minister has lost his life, and thousands of people.  What are we going to do?  We have been pumping billions of dollars, so next year, again, we’ll have a report.  Do you have anything about --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Yeah.  I --

QUESTION:  -- talking – walking the walk instead of just talking the talk?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  No.  These are – the issues you raise are of great concern.  I was in Pakistan in January.  I met with Governor Taseer’s family three weeks after he was assassinated, continue to be in contact with them.  I met with Minister Bhatti there and again here.  Secretary Clinton and I met him together several weeks before he was killed.  The issues of intolerance in Pakistan trouble us greatly, and I think they trouble most Pakistanis.  I am particularly concerned about the Urdu press and the role it plays in that.  Again, we can’t force that change, but we are very mindful – our Ambassador Cameron Munter is very, very attuned and very sensitive to the real challenges that we and the Pakistani Government face in trying to tamp down the intolerance that now is so pervasive. 

QUESTION:  And now another ally –

QUESTION:  A clarification, if I may interrupt, because you mentioned something on --

MODERATOR:  I think that’s enough for today.  Assistant Secretary Posner is going to have another media engagement this afternoon, so if you have follow-up (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Okay.  I wanted to ask (inaudible).

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER:  Thank you.



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