|Tuesday, 26 September 2023|
APPENDIX A: PREPARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS REPORTS
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: JANUARY 31, 1994
Notes on Preparation of the ReportsThe annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are based upon all information available to the United States Government. Sources include American officials, officials of foreign governments, private citizens, victims of human rights abuse, congressional studies, intelligence information, press reports, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations concerned with human rights. We are particularly appreciative of, and make reference in most reports to, the role of nongovernmental human rights organizations, ranging from groups in a single country to major organizations that concern themselves with human rights matters in larger geographic regions or over the entire world. While much of the information we use is already public, information on particular abuses frequently cannot be attributed, for obvious reasons, to specific sources.
The reports by law must be submitted to Congress by January 31. To comply, United States diplomatic missions are given guidance in September for submission of draft reports in October, which are updated by year's end as necessary. Contributions are received from appropriate offices in the Department of State, and a final draft is prepared under the coordination of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Because of the preparation time required, it is possible that developments in the latter part of the year may not be fully reflected; moreover, reports from some of the nongovernmental organizations are for periods ending well before the end of the year. We make every effort to include reference to major events or significant changes in trends.
We have attempted to make these country reports as comprehensive as space will allow, while taking care to make them objective and as uniform as possible in both scope and quality of coverage. We have given particular attention to attaining a high standard of consistency despite the multiplicity of sources and the obvious problems related to varying degrees of access to information, structural differences in political and social systems, and trends in world opinion regarding human rights practices in specific countries.
It is often difficult to evaluate the credibility of reports of human rights abuses. With the exception of some terrorist groups, most opposition groups and certainly most governments deny that they commit human rights abuses and often go to great lengths to cover up any evidence of such acts. There are often few eyewitnesses to specific abuses, and they frequently are intimidated or otherwise prevented from reporting what they know. On the other hand, individuals and groups opposed to a particular government sometimes have powerful incentives to exaggerate or fabricate abuses, and some governments similarly distort or exaggerate abuses attributed to opposition groups. We have made every effort to identify those groups (e.g., government forces, terrorists, etc.) that are believed, based on all the evidence available, to have committed human rights abuses. Where credible evidence is lacking, we have tried to indicate why. Many governments that profess to oppose human rights abuses in fact secretly order or tacitly condone them or simply lack the will or the ability to control those responsible for them. Consequently, in judging a government's policy, it is important to look beyond statements of policy or intent in order to examine what in fact a government has done to prevent human rights abuses, including the extent to which it investigates, tries, and appropriately punishes those who commit such abuses. We continue to make every effort to do that in these reports.
There is a conceptual difficulty in applying a single standard of evaluation to societies with differing cultural and legal traditions. There is also a problem of perspective in discussing countries that face differing political and economic realities, which must be taken into account in describing the human rights environment. Rather than viewing a country in isolation, these reports take as their point of departure the world as it is and then seek to apply a consistent approach in assessing each country's human rights situation. While we have tried to make each report self-contained by including enough background information to place the human rights situation in context, readers who need to delve more deeply may wish to consult other sources, including previous country reports.
To increase uniformity, the introductory section of each report contains a brief setting, indicating how the country is governed and providing the context for examining the country's human rights performance. A description of the political framework and the role of security and law enforcement agencies with respect to human rights is followed by a brief characterization of the economy. The setting concludes with an overview of human rights developments in the year under review, mentioning specific areas (e.g., torture, freedom of speech and press) in which abuses occurred.
There are two format changes in this year's report. Public law 103-87, enacted on September 30, 1993, requires that the reports include "an examination of the discrimination against people with disabilities," including whether the government has enacted legislation or otherwise mandated provision of accessibility to public buildings. As a result, the heading of Section 5 has been changed to: "Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status," and the topic is discussed in each report. The second change is the use of subtitles in Section 5 to make that section more readable and to enable readers searching for information on discrimination against specific groups to find it more readily. We have continued the effort from previous years to expand reporting on the human rights of women, children and indigenous people. We discuss in the appropriate section of the report any abuses that are targeted specifically against women (e.g., rape or other violence perpetrated by governmental or organized opposition forces, or legal restrictions on freedom of movement). Socioeconomic discrimination; societal violence against women, children or minority group members; and the efforts, if any, of governments to combat these problems continue to be discussed in Section 5.
The following notes on specific categories of the report are not meant to be comprehensive descriptions of each category but to provide definitions of key terms used in the reports and to explain the organization of material within the format:
Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing--Includes killings in which there is evidence of government instigation without due process of law, or of political motivation by government or by opposition groups; also covers extrajudicial killings (e.g., deliberate and illegal use of lethal force by the police, security forces, or other agents of the State whether against criminal suspects or others or deaths in official custody resulting from unnatural causes or under suspicious circumstances); excludes combat deaths and killings by common criminals, if the likelihood of political motivation can be ruled out (see also Section 1.g.).
Disappearance--Covers unresolved cases in which political motivation appears likely and in which the victims have not been found or perpetrators have not been identified; cases eventually classed as political killings are covered in the above category, those eventually identified as arrest or detention are covered under "Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile."
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment--Torture is here defined as an extremely severe form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, committed by or at the instigation of government forces or opposition groups, with specific intent to cause extremely severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical. Discussion concentrates on actual practices, not on whether they fit any precise definition, and includes use of physical and other force that may fall short of torture but which is cruel, inhuman, or degrading.
Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile--Covers cases in which detainees, including political detainees, are held in official custody without charges or, if charged, are denied a public preliminary judicial hearing within a reasonable period.
Denial of Fair Public Trial--Describes the court system and evaluates whether there is an independent judiciary and whether trials are both fair and public (failure to hold any trial is noted in the category above); includes discussion of "political prisoners" (political detainees are covered above), defined as those imprisoned for essentially political beliefs or nonviolent acts of dissent or expression, regardless of the actual charge.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence--Discusses the "passive" right of the individual to noninterference by the State; includes the right to receive foreign publications, for example, while the right to publish is discussed under "Freedom of Speech and Press"; includes the right to be free from coercive population control measures, including coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization but does not include cultural or traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, which are addressed in Section 5.
Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts--Includes indiscriminate, nonselective killings arising from excessive use of force, e.g., by police in putting down demonstrations (deliberate, targeted killing would be discussed in Section l.a.). Also includes abuses against civilian noncombatants. For reports in which use of this section would be inappropriate, i.e., in which there is no significant internal conflict, use of excessive force by security forces is discussed in Section 1.a. if it results in killings or in Section 1.c. if it does not.
Freedom of Speech and Press--Evaluates whether these freedoms exist and describes any direct or indirect restrictions. Includes discussion of academic freedom.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association--Evaluates the ability of individuals and groups (including political parties) to exercise these freedoms. Includes the ability of trade associations, professional bodies, and similar groups to maintain relations or affiliate with recognized international bodies in their fields. The right of labor to associate and to organize and bargain collectively is discussed under Section 6, Worker Rights (see Appendix B).
Freedom of Religion--Includes the freedom to publish religious documents in foreign languages; addresses the treatment of foreign clergy and whether religious belief affects membership in a ruling party or a career in government.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation--Includes discussion of forced resettlement; "refugees" may refer to persons displaced by civil strife or natural disaster as well as persons who are "refugees" within the meaning of the Refugee Act of 1980, i.e., persons with a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of origin or, if stateless, in their country of habitual residence, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government--Discusses the extent to which citizens have freedom of political choice and can change the laws and officials that govern them; assesses whether elections are free and fair.
Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights--Discusses whether the government permits the free functioning of local human rights groups (including the right to investigate and publish their findings on alleged human rights abuses) and whether they are subject to reprisal by government or other forces. Also discusses whether the government grants access to and cooperates with outside entities (including foreign human rights organizations, international organizations, and foreign governments) interested in human rights developments in the country.
Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status--This year, every report contains a subheading on Women, Children, and People With Disabilities. As appropriate, some reports also include subheadings on Indigenous People, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities, and Religious Minorities. Discrimination against groups not fitting one of the above subheadings is discussed in the introductory paragraphs of Section 5. In this section we address discrimination and abuses not discussed elsewhere in the report instigated or condoned by the government, and, where not condoned, efforts by the government to counter them. This includes restricted access to employment, housing, education, or to other economic, social, or cultural opportunities. (Abuses by government or opposition forces, such as killing, torture and other violence, or restriction of voting rights or free speech targeted against specific groups would be discussed under the appropriate preceding sections.) Government tolerance of societal violence or other abuse against women, e.g., "dowry deaths" and wife beating, is discussed in this section. Female genital mutilation (circumcision), because it is most often performed on children, is discussed under that subheading.