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February 27, 2014

Secretary Kerry Releases 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First welcome’s today’s release of the 2013 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  The organization notes that these reports are a continuing demonstration of the U.S. government’s commitment to universal values of human rights and basic freedoms. The organization notes that the United States faces many human rights challenges in its foreign policy that are accurately and frankly reported in the 2013 Country Reports.

"We agree when Kerry said, 'The United States government best advances its national interests when its policy choices are rooted in consistent adherence to human rights principles,'” said Human Rights First’s Robyn Lieberman.   “As the secretary said, ‘countries that deny human rights and human dignity threaten our interests, and countries that practice these rights create opportunities.’ We agree and believe that the publication of the Country Reports should serve to inform the formation of policies that can contribute to solutions that the human rights violations described in the report are so badly in need of.”

In his opening remarks today, Secretary John Kerry spoke about the United States’ ongoing commitment to reporting on the human rights concerns of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.  LGBT issues have been front and center in recent months with the passage of troubling new laws in Russia, Nigeria and Uganda and continued reports of human rights violations against LGBT people reported worldwide.  U.S. leadership is needed now more than ever and Human Rights First commends Secretary Kerry for his continued attention to this issue.  In his statement, Secretary Kerry condemned the Uganda law as “an affront to every reasonable conscience.”  Human Rights First looks forward to working with Secretary Kerry and the State Department to push for LGBT safety and equality worldwide. 

Secretary Kerry also noted the clear connection between violations and disregard of human rights and insecurity and violence in many parts of the world.  The secretary is right that advancing human rights serves both U.S. national interests and international peace and security.  The United States must stand with those who defend human dignity and freedom.

Following Secretary Kerry’s remarks, Acting Assistant Secretary of State Uzra Zeya pointed to the repression of independent human rights defenders – including in Bahrain – and the suppression of peaceful dissent as among the most notable trends of 2013.  Where such repression takes place human rights violations proliferate.  Human Rights First will continue to urge the U.S. government to consistently support the work of independent human rights defenders around the world.

In addition, the Middle East continues to be plagued by violence and instability and the U.S. government has too often appeared hesitant and uncertain in responding to the changes that are sweeping through the region.  The conflict in Syria has become a massive humanitarian crisis that threatens to spill over into neighboring states and sow instability throughout the region for years to come.  Building on the recently adopted U.N. Security Council Resolution 2139, the U.S. government should redouble its efforts to bring about a negotiated end to the conflict, hold accountable those responsible for mass atrocities and crimes against humanity and work towards a post-conflict Syria in which the rights of all Syrians will be respected. 

Human Rights First joins Secretary Kerry in calling on the Senate to no longer delay action on the nomination of Tom Malinowski, who has been chosen by President Obama to be the new Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and is awaiting confirmation by the Senate.

For more information or to speak with Lieberman, contact Corinne Duffy at DuffyC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3319.

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