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March 13, 2019

State Department Human Rights Reports Showcase Selectivity of Administration on Abuses

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First welcomed release of the State Department’s 2018 Human Rights Reports today, while noting that the internationally recognized rights monitored within the reports are all too often missing from the center of the Trump Administration’s policies.

In response to the publication, Human Rights First’s Senior Vice President for Policy Rob Berschinski released the following statement:

Secretary Pompeo deserves plaudits for personally headlining the release of the 2018 Human Rights Reports, which marks the first time during the Trump Administration that the ceremony has included the Secretary of State’s participation.

Unfortunately, Secretary Pompeo’s remarks and preface to the Reports only highlight the Trump Administration’s selectivity when it comes to supporting and protecting human rights. Pompeo correctly acknowledges that America’s strongest alliances are built on a foundation of both shared interests and shared values. Yet from its shielding of Saudi leaders from accountability over the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, to its cozy relationship with NATO allies trending towards authoritarianism, the Trump Administration seems disinterested in its own advice. With respect to the Khashoggi killing, the administration’s continued insistence that it is waiting on a Saudi-led investigation is laughable, given the complete absence of rule of law in that country.

Every U.S. administration engages in some degree of hypocrisy when it comes to defending human rights, but President Trump and Secretary Pompeo seem to take insincerity to a new level. One need look no further than President Trump’s words of praise for Kim Jong Un or Vladimir Putin, Secretary Pompeo’s obfuscation concerning Mohammed bin Salman’s responsibility in Khashoggi’s murder, or the administration’s desire to gut the State Department’s foreign assistance to gauge this administration’s priorities.”    

The Department of State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, commonly known as the Human Rights Reports, index abuses and advances in terms of civil, political, and worker rights globally. The Reports are widely regarded as a powerful tool to hold human rights violators accountable and to document the progress of governments toward respecting the dignity of their citizens. 

Human Rights First notes that over two years into the Trump administration’s time in office, the State Department’s top two human rights positions remain vacant.

For more information or to speak with Berschinski, contact Christopher Plummer [email protected]