Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Splinter in America's Eye

What a difference a year makes. Just over 12 months ago, the Abu Ghraib scandal was just starting to break. Almost concurrently, the U.S. State Department was scheduled to release its annual report on human rights violations around the world. This really crappy timing resulted in State delaying the release of the report by a few months. When the report was in fact released, it was sort of snuck out the back door. A brief puff of smoke emanated from the West Wing of the White House, and then the report was summarily forgotten.

In the past year, we've become aware of a culture of U.S. government sanctioned abuse and torture that has grown, rather than decreased in scope. Guantanamo Bay. Camp Bucca. Abu Ghraib. And we're not even hearing about the "outsourcing" of torture / in other remote U.S.-franchised (and/or owner-operated) gulags hidden around the world in places such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Diego Garcia, and Afghanistan.

For cripes sake, the lead proponent of the Bush administration torture doctrine was just confirmed as Attorney General, and another of the principles was just confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security.

So it's rather unsurprising that the 2005 model of the annual U.S. State Department report on human rights is being quietly rolled out today, with little fanfare. The report covers the usual suspects (Cuba, Sudan, Iran, and...gasp...Russia, among others), while citing Iraq and Afghanistan as bastions of democracy.

Here are links to the introductory remarks by State Department bureaucrats, as well as the complete report:

Introductory remarks - press conference
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, 2004

And, lest you Canucks think you get off the hook (you abusers, you), check this out. Heh.

Lastly, without looking, here's a pop quiz - which country garnered the following recognition:

The Government's human rights record remained poor overall with continuing serious problems, despite some progress. Citizens did not have the right to change their government. Security forces continued to abuse detainees and prisoners, arbitrarily arrest, and hold persons in incommunicado detention. There were cases in which Mutawwa'in continued to intimidate, abuse, and detain citizens and foreigners. Most trials were closed, and defendants usually appeared before judges without legal counsel. Security forces arrested and detained reformers, some of whom continued at year's end to seek an open trial. The Government reportedly infringed on individuals' privacy rights. The Government continued to restrict freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association, religion, and movement. There was widespread public perception that corruption by some members of the royal family and in the executive branch of the Government was a serious problem. There was little government transparency, especially notable in official budgets, and with no laws providing the right to access government information. The Government continued to discriminate against women, ethnic and religious minorities and to impose strict limitations on worker rights.

(Hint - the U.S. Royal Family has pretty close ties to this country. In fact, we all do.)