April 14, 2016

Cardin Highlights State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices as an Important Tool for Holding Human Rights Violators Accountable

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the State Department’s release of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:

“The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released on April 13 by the State Department, are critical  for assessing progress on human rights globally, and for holding governments accountable for their human rights abuses,” said Senator Cardin.  “I am deeply concerned about the growing trend, perpetrated by both state and non-state actors, of marginalizing civil society organizations and actors.  Through intimidation, physical threats, and violence, opposition voices are too often suppressed and fundamental human rights are attacked.  For example:

“Russia has levied increased pressure on civil society organizations using legislative means to limit their activities and their funding, all while failing to bring to justice individuals responsible for the deaths of prominent journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and opposition politicians.   In Ethiopia, the government uses vaguely-worded security laws to limit press freedom, silence independent journalists, stifle political opposition and restrict the conduct of peaceful protests, as it has done in the Oromia region for the past five months.  The Chinese government continues to discriminate against ethnic groups, repress Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims, and suppress civil society, in the name of the fight against separatism, religious extremism, and terrorism. In Honduras, there is growing concern about extrajudicial killings perpetrated by Honduran security forces and the frequency of violent attacks against high profile civil society leaders, as evidenced by the murder of internationally-recognized activist Berta Cáceres.  The deteriorating human rights situation in Venezuela is underscored by the continued incarceration of more than 70 political prisoners, politicization of the Venezuelan judiciary, and ongoing efforts to suppress freedom of expression.

“In Afghanistan, we see continued reports of torture by local security forces, detention center authorities, and police.  As the United States provides significant security assistance to Afghanistan, more must be done to effectively investigate these cases and bring these abuses to an end. 

“In all parts of Syria, we have seen both state and non-state actors arbitrarily and unlawfully kill, torture, and detain persons on a wide scale.  The Assad regime has conducted attacks on civilians in hospitals, residential areas, schools and camps, including widespread use of barrel bombs which indiscriminately harm and terrorize civilian populations, while undermining international humanitarian law. 

“For all of these reasons, we must insist on greater accountability for gross human rights violators, and the Department of State reports are an important tool in accomplishing this objective.  This is why I have fought to enact the Global Magnitsky Act, which has been passed by the Senate.  I urge the House to take up the Global Magnitsky Act to provide this and future administrations with powerful tools to deter gross human rights violations and combat corruption across the globe.  These tools will help us ensure that the human rights violators do not escape the consequences of their abusive and corrupt behavior.” 

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