International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

April 9, 2003

April 9, 2003





**  Although the State Department Human Rights Report revealed "nothing new," observers found this year's release more "contentious" given allegations of U.S. "aggression" in Iraq.

**  Some judged the report "balanced and accurate," more found it "arrogant" and "hypocritical."

**  A common charge was that with the U.S.' "ignoring" world opinion and "causing" civilian casualties in Iraq, Washington had "no moral right" to pass judgment on other nations.




Evaluation may be 'embarrassing,' but should not be 'rejected' by countries affected--  While many considered the report's release "ironic" at this time, few disagreed with its findings.  Serbian, Thai, Paraguayan and Panamanian dailies were among the most receptive, deeming the document useful in identifying areas for improvement in their own governments and providing a "manual of operations" for their officials' "future conduct."  Calling it "good and quite conservative in its assessment,” Bangkok dailies welcomed the report because, according to top-circulation Thai Rath, "it mirrors how the international community views Thailand and what areas we should try to improve.”  Paraguayan papers argued that the document was "essentially correct," and shared Panamanian tabloid Critica Libre's contention that "instead of expressing alarm over the criticism...we have to adopt, once and for all, real corrective actions." 


U.S. has 'no business' in judging other countries' human rights practices--  Writers worldwide found it "unacceptable" that the U.S. was accusing other countries of human rights violations while "directing the most horrible human tragedies on earth" in "broad daylight."  Accusations of U.S. "hypocrisy" and "double standards" were prevalent.  Some likened the report to the "pot calling the kettle black," others emphasized the "disgusting" paradox.  Many echoed Morocco's pro-government Al Ittihad Al Ishtiraki's indignation in pointing out how "awful" it was that "a country which orders killing then presents reports on human rights in the world."  Insisting that America can't "have it both ways," India's nationalist Hindustan Times reasoned that if the U.S. "wants to launch wars" against the "wishes" of the world, it has "no business sitting in judgment on the global community."


U.S. should 'practice what it preaches'--  Some were skeptical of Washington's commitment to human rights, arguing that if the U.S. was "so keen" on democracy, "why is it so often on the side of the tyrants, the dictators and fingernail-pullers."  Pointing to Iraq, Russia's reformist Vremya Novostey held it "regrettable" that the "beacon" of human rights and democracy had its reputation "sullied."  One editorial in the paper termed the U.S.' attitude toward the press as "typical of the Bolsheviks," another suggested the U.S. was "acting as mad criminals...exactly as we [Russians] have been doing in Chechnya."  Tunisia's independent Ash-Shourouq sarcastically asserted that the U.S. would have better served human rights if "it got rid of Scuds and B-52s and changed them to loaves of bread to feed starving mouths."

EDITOR:  Irene Marr


EDITOR'S NOTE:  This survey is based on 36 reports from 16 countries, April 1-9.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




RUSSIA:  "Global Messiahship"


Yevgeniy Verlin said in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (4/2):  "Global messiahship has again been proclaimed the chief guideline of the United States' foreign policy ideology.   As he presented the annual report on the human rights situation in the world last Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that combating international terrorism and spreading the blessings of freedom make up the core content of the U.S. agenda for the world.   This, he believes, is what the Allies' military machine is doing in Iraq now."


"Balanced Report"


Lyudmila Alekseyeva, chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, declared (4/2):  "The report is quite balanced, made by people who are aware of the human rights situation in every country.  It has nothing to do with the events in Iraq--some people are fighting in Iraq, others are busy writing reports.  They did not begin drafting this report when the war started in Iraq.   Human rights reports are a routine business."


"What the Report Says Is True"


Yuliy Rybakov, a Duma deputy, said in reformist Vremya Novostey (4/2):  "I agree with the facts and assessments as contained in the report concerning our actions in Chechnya.  Sadly, what they say is true.   But then... with the Americans acting as mad criminals these days, exactly as we have been doing in Chechnya, we make a pair."


"World Order Falls Apart"


Olga Koleva of reformist Vremya Novostey noted (4/2):  "The world order is falling apart, and, regrettably, the Americans, the beacons for all in the area of democracy and human rights, have had their reputation sallied.   Coming up with such a report is something they have no moral right to do now.  The Americans' attacks on the Russian media are most surprising, as their own attitude toward the press has been typical of true Bolsheviks recently."


BULGARIA:  "What About Negro-Lynching in the U.S.?"


Second-largest, nationalist 24 Hours fumed (4/2):  "Every year the U.S. releases a report on human rights practices in the world.  The goal is two-fold:  Firstly, to form a sort of a 'government- opposition' political division line in the countries included in the report.  The government rejects the claims in the report, and the opposition goes up in arms and attempts a democratic  revolution.  Secondly, once legitimized, these reports could become a  base for sanctions.  The small and poor countries of the planet could only  stutter:  'And why are you lynching the Negroes?'   There isn't a more disgusting political and media paradox:  a country, which yesterday  murdered eight women and children in Iraq, is trying to teach me and you and tens of others around the world what respect for human rights means."


"Don't Curse Your Brother In Arms"


Largest-circulation Trud held (4/2):  "Once again the U.S. State Department told us things are not so great in  Bulgaria.  Bulgarians can see that for themselves, but why are our new brothers-in-arms rubbing it in?  The U.S. is not perfect either and everyone knows that....  But it is not right to air each other's dirty underwear in a tense time like today."


"What To Do With The Judiciary"


Nationalistic, stridently anti-U.S. Monitor said (4/2):  "The report is no news for the ordinary Bulgarians.  They have long known that the judiciary's work has all but screeched to a halt....  The conclusion is that the judicial system is falling apart due to internal strife and it needs urgent reform.  Everyone agrees that this is the case but nothing is being done about it.  This sort of inaction will be a crucial obstacle on the road to EU accession."


"The Human Rights Report"


Center-left Sega commented (4/2):  "As a whole, the State Department Human Rights report doesn't reveal anything new, which hasn't been said in other places and on other occasions and which has not been noted in the report's previous editions."   


SERBIA AND MONTENEGRO:  "Tanjug's Commentary On Annual Human Rights Report"


State-owned news agency Tanjug reported (4/4): "SAM’s Human and Minority Rights Ministry on April 4 expressed satisfaction over the report of the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor which praised the progress achieved in the protection of minority rights and freedoms in SAM in the past year. The Ministry underscored the Bureau's assessment that very important are laws which significantly promote minority rights and freedoms, compared to the time before Oct 5, 2000. The State Department’s Human Rights Bureau points out the importance of the direct involvement of Minister Rasim Ljajic in the campaign which aimed to promote ethnic tolerance, describing Ljajic 'as one of the most active government members' in the last year."


"Conspiracy Or Truth"


Independent populist Vecernje Novosti wrote (4/6):  ""The part which says that 'the police used wiretapping and surveillance against opposition parties and other groups on a selective basis' initiated a denial by the Chief of Montenegro State Security Dusko Marovic who stated that this is a 'malicious' assumption. However, the opposition in Podgorica assessed that the American report is truthful." 




MOROCCO:  "Really Awful!"


Pro-governmment Arabic-language Al Ittihad Al Ishtiraki stated (4/2):  "The provocation in Secretary of State Powell's press conference on the State Department annual report on human rights at the precise present time is how a country which has attacked militarily another country has given itself the permission to talk about human rights while it has struck residential areas and markets killing civilians and children? Where are human rights among all the victims of Iraqi civilians? Are they not concerned by human rights?  What rights Washington is talking about? While it has put itself up against the world....  It's really awful what the world lives up today. A country which orders killing then presents reports on human rights in this world!"


TUNISIA:  "Fatwa On Human Rights!


Noureddine Boutaar wrote in independent Arabic-language Ash-Shourouq (4/2):  "The American Department of State starts its annual distribution of Human Rights reports throughout the world....  Congressmen ask about everything...from cats to dolphins to women's rights to 'take a walk' in Afghanistan with foreigners...but they don't ask about the Iraqi children's right to sleep peacefully like the rest of the children in the world....  They don't care about the American soldiers' violation of an independent people's right to decide its fate.  Which rights are the American administration talking about when its people are subject to a cultural aggression and where various forms of media black-out are being practiced?  Its people who are drowning in the propaganda machine and in local marginal issues--a people who do not understand the reality of the American foreign policy that has resulted in repeated aggressions against their country....  God bless Mr. Colin Powell and all 'his information sources'...but the American administration would have presented a bigger help to the issue of human rights in the world if it got rid of Scuds and B52's and changed them to loaves of breads to feed the starving mouths.  At such a time, there would be more credibility to Mr. Powell's 'Fatwas' that reflects the reality of the principles of the American constitution.  Let's wait for next April 1st." 




CHINA:  “U.S. Talk On Human Rights Hypocrisy”


Yan Xiao commented in the official English-language China Daily (4/7):  “While it accuses other countries of human rights violations, Washington is directing the most horrible human tragedies on earth today in broad daylight....  That logic is reminiscent and representative of U.S. arrogance on the world stage.”


"U.S. Human Rights Records In 2002"


The Information Office of the State Council released a report entitled ‘The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2002’ in the official English-language China Daily (4/4):  "The U.S. State Department released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002 on March 31, at a time when the United States is facing condemnation from people and nations in the world for unilaterally launching a war against Iraq.  The reports carry distorted pictures and accusations of human rights conditions in China and other countries, but they make no of human rights problems in the United States itself.  a.  In American society, excessive violence has resulted in ineffective protection of life and security of the person.  b.  Violations of the law have been found in about 26 percent of them, 2 percent of which have caused physical injuries.  c.  Calling itself the 'model of democracy', the United States has been trying hard to sell to the world its mode of democracy.  d.  The United States is the only superpower in the world.  But the poor, hungry and homeless have formed a 'Third World' in the most developed nation, owing to the widening gap in wealth between the rich and the poor and social injustice.  e.  Discrimination against women is common in the United States. USA Today reported on January 6, 2003 that women hold merely 14 percent of seats in Congress.  f.  Racial discrimination is deep-rooted in the United States. Senate Republican leader Trent Lott had repeatedly made remarks supporting racial segregation during his political life.  g.  The United States is following unilateralism in international affairs and has frequently committed flagrant violations of human rights in other countries.  Regardless of the strong calls for no war from the international community, the United States, together with a few other countries, launched a war against Iraq on March 20, 2003. The war, which has openly violated the purpose and principles of the UN Charter, has killed and injured innocent Iraqi civilians and caused serious humanitarian disasters.  h.  The United States, taking a negative attitude towards the international human rights conventions, is one of the only two countries in the world that have not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."


"To Disclose Certain Western Country’s Interfering in Human Rights of Other Countries”


The official intellectual Guangming Daily (Guangming Ribao) reported (4/2):  “Sha Zukang (Chief of Chinese delegation at The 59th United Nations Human Right Congress) said that....  If somebody doesn’t know what ‘calling white black’, ‘power politics’ and ‘double standards’ mean, the discussion on the country draft of Human Rights Congress is the best class for him. The ongoing Human Rights Congress neglects the humanitarian disaster that is happening in a certain country right now...but hypocritically concerns itself about the human rights of some other countries, making difficulties of all kinds to developing countries, which already have difficulties under globalization. This is really ironic.”


“Ministry Rejects U.S. Accusations”


Jiang Zhuqing commented in the official English-language China Daily (4/2):  "We express our strong displeasure and resolute opposition to the baseless criticism of China's human rights situation with no regard to the facts,’ Liu Jianchao, foreign ministry spokesman said.  The United States should think about its own problems, stop using the excuse of human rights to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and stop using double standards on the topic of human rights,’ said the spokesman.”


MALAYSIA:   "American Hypocrisy"  


Government-influenced English-language Malay Mail editorialized (4/1):  "The U.S. yesterday brazenly claimed that from former Soviet states in Eurasia, to communist ruled China and North Korea, Asia is blanketed by severe human rights abuses, with freedom in many states muzzled under repressive rule.  The State Department's annual survey of global human rights is always controversial.  But it is even more contentious this year, with the U.S. accused of aggression and causing civilian casualties in the war on Iraq, and still holding hundreds of prisoners and terror suspects from the Afghan war in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."


THAILAND: “Human Rights Report Is No Threat”


The lead editorial in the independent, English language Nation read (4/5): “Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was angry again.  This time it was about the annual country-by-country human rights report released by the U.S. State Department.  His rhetoric reflected a lack of understanding of the real purpose of the report.  Unlike its neighbors, Thailand has never complained of such reports since their first publication in 1979.  Previous governments dealt with the reports in a mature way.  They treated the reports as a benchmark viewed from a Western perspective.  In fact, the reports, which cover more than 130 countries, have been carefully drafted by U.S. diplomats based in various capitals with which the U.S. has diplomatic ties.  In general, they are accurate and comprehensive.  In the case of Thailand, the annual report was good and quite conservative in its assessment.”


“Just Obey The Law”


The lead editorial in top-circulation, Thai language Thai Rath read (4/7): “Several people may have gloated over Prime Minister Thaksin’s response to the U.S. Department of State’s release of its annual Human Rights Report which mentioned about Thailand’s human rights practice in a negative light. The prime minister said Thailand is not a U.S. lackey, but an equal ally, and thus does not deserve such impolite criticism...  True, Thailand is not a U.S. lackey, but the U.S. government reserved the right to criticize Thailand and vice versa.… Although the Human Rights Report has no binding on the Thai government, it mirrors how the international community views Thailand and what areas we should try to improve.”




INDIA:  "Intrusion Not Acceptable"


The nationalist Hindustan Times opined (4/3):  "Human rights are a difficult concept to express--let alone measure.... There is, however, a huge problem when the U.S. State Department decides that it has the right to sit around and judge the human rights record of other countries. Firstly, does America, with its recent record of ignoring world opinion, really have any business passing judgments on other countries?  Secondly, given the kind of things that George W. Bush has said during his so-called war against terrorism...doesn't Washington recognize that the battle against terrorism often requires us to suspend the normal rules?  And thirdly, if the U.S. is so keen on democracy and human rights, then why is it so often on the side of the tyrants, the dictators and the fingernail-pullers?...  America can't have it both ways. If it wants to launch wars against the wishes of the rest of the world then it has no business sitting in judgment on the global community." 


PAKISTAN:  "Ridiculous"


Karachi-based right-wing pro-Islamic unity Urdu-language Jasarat observed (4/3):  "A cursory look at he U.S. State Department's Human Rights report for 2002 reveals that there were human rights violations in the entire world except the U.S. itself.  The allegations leveled in this report [on different countries] make one laugh. There is not a single allegation of wrong doing that is not itself being committed in the U.S.  The U.S. has broken all records of human rights violations in the entire world during 2002 by its human rights violations in Afghanistan and now in Iraq.  On the other hand, the report treats the human rights violation in India and Israel very mildly."


"U.S. and Human Rights"


 Populist Urdu-language Khabrain stated (4/2):  "America has accused China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Israel of serious human rights violations and termed the human rights situation in Central Asia unsatisfactory....  By its statements, measures, reports and actions, the U.S. has proven that although it can see excesses in other countries, it is unable to see those within its own country....  The question is: do extra-judicial killings, torture of prisoners, misuse of power, illegal detentions and other such incidents not happen in the U.S.?  If the answer to any of these is 'yes', then the least the accused countries can do is to hold up a mirror to the U.S."


"Human Rights And India And Israel"


An editorial in center-right Urdu-language Pakistan read (4/3):  "The U.S. State Department has, besides other countries, criticized India and Israel for the violation of human rights in the report on the state of human rights....  Without indulging in a debate on U.S. stand on human rights situation in China and Saudi Arabia, may we ask as to what stops America from taking a note of grave human rights violations by India and Israel.  Israel has indulged in massacre of unarmed Palestinians and occupation of Palestinians land and has been given $ 10 billion aid by America." 


BANGLADESH:  “The U.S. Human Rights Report”


Pro-opposition Bengali-language Janakantha commented (4/4):  "Relevant responsible persons may see the U.S. assessment obliquely in the present global situation, but how could they reject the reality?  The report shows that the human rights situation in Bangladesh is worse than any previous year.  Although it cannot be said the report reflects the overall picture of Bangladesh, the worsening situation cannot be ignored.  Extra-judicial murder under the democratic framework, the use of security forces for narrow political end, protection of corrupt elements under the official Secrecy Act, and the impact of religion in politics behind the façade of secularism cannot be undermined.  Bangladesh must resolve these issues if it wants to hold its head high as a democratic and civilized nation."        


“Human Rights Report Indeed!”


Pro-Iraq Bengali-language Inqilab editorialized (4/4):  "It is a question before human rights activists and peace-loving people of the world: does the U.S. have any moral right to prepare and publicize human rights reports when its tanks, missiles and bombs are smashing human rights of the Iraqi people?  How could they, who themselves are plunderers of human rights and war criminals, do that?"




MEXICO:  "The Pot Calling The Kettle Black"


Conservative, leading-circulation Baja-based El Mexicano commented (4/1):  "The State Department's human rights report has an enormous omission: the United States' own reality.  They see the straw in someone else's eye, but not the wooden beam in their own.  So the diplomats from our neighboring country accuse Mexico of negligence and corruption [in the human rights report], but they look away from their large-scale transgression, on an international scale, and the depravity of killing people for economic interests [in Iraq]." 


“Human Rights And Pressures (Coming) From The US”


Left-of-center La Jornada remarked (4/1):  “The Security Council will be presided over by Mexico (this week), at a time the UN needs to be rebuilt; therefore political, diplomatic, economic pressures coming from the US will multiply....  It is significant that given the actual circumstances--politics and diplomacy are not fortuitous--the State Department presents its annual report about Human Rights, which shows the outrageous conditions of HRs in our country, like jail corruption,  illegal traffic of people, arbitrary arrests, isolation of those arrested, torture, illegal use of children for labor and other atrocities perpetrated in Mexican territory with the indolence –or even worst: complicity--of federal, state and municipal authorities....  These suggestions coming from the SD are painful, first because they are true, and second because violations of HRs in Mexico are framed by the pressures made by the US to change the human, worthy and prudent  Mexican stance against the criminal war launched i n Iraq.”


PANAMA: "Unilateral Evaluations"


Panama's OAS Ambassador, Juan Manuel Castulovich, wrote this op-ed for conservative El Panama America (4/8):  "I cannot share what other Panamanians consider correct that a country claims the right to grade and judge others especially when the consequences could block, for example, access to the resources of international financial institutions or scare away the area of human rights there are institutions for the promotion, protection and defense of them in our continent...[such as] the Commission and the Inter American Court of Human Rights.… That's why it's even harder to explain that by having institutions like those mentioned above, there are still individual initiatives to evaluate and grade the behavior of other countries.… The key point is whether any country has the right of setting itself up as a judge of the others.… We should all express opposition to this practice that contradicts basic norms of justice and international equity."


"The State Department Report"


Conservative El Panama America ran an inside editorial stating (4/5):  "Though the report may embarrass and may not be diplomatic, does not represent an interference of any kind but merely collects the opinions of one of the many bureaus that form the bureaucracy of the U.S. government.… These reports, although uncomfortable in some respects and gratifying in others, will not stop because we protest their content.… Those documents are of great use to ambassadors, or those aspiring to be, about the conditions in places they will serve in."


 "Justice Questioned"


Tabloid Critica Libre stated (4/2):  "The government has screamed to the heavens over criticism of the Panamanian judicial system in a Department of State [Human Rights] report....  Facing up to the U.S. document, instead of expressing alarm for the criticism received, we have to adopt, once and for all, real corrective actions, and not only cosmetics, or else next year we will hear the same criticism."


"The Administration Of Justice"


Sensationalist tabloid El Siglo declared (4/2):  "Last year, the State Department had issued the same warnings about the Panamanian judicial system, charges that were characterized by the President of the Supreme Court as vague speculations....  Now, the President [Supreme Court] has restated his rejection to the same, responding once again how much the judicial system has advanced and that the U.S. evaluation has not adjusted to reality....  In any case, the evaluation given by the U.S. government seems, in a certain way, atuned with the image that Panamanians have of the Panamanian justice system."


PARAGUAY:  "Hypocrisy"


Conservative second-largest Noticias stated (4/6):  "The hypocrisy of North American imperialism is such that, on one hand, they declare themselves the protector of human rights in the world with the power to use force freely and arbitrarily, killing innocents with fragmentation bombs and, on the other hand, judging the conduct of third-world nations...characterizing them as violators of human rights, when they (the U.S.) do the same but multiplied by 10,000 times."


"U.S. Criticism Of Human Rights Should Serve To Right The Wrongs"


Second-largest,  conservative Noticias editorialized (4/4):  "The document constitutes a useful tool in analyzing our comportment as a society and fundamentally, the type of treatment in general citizens receive from authorities."  


"Reports And Reactions"


Business-oriented Asuncion-based La Nacion opined (4/4):  "This report of the Department of State to the Congress of the United States can't be rejected by the affected governments because it is a manual of operations for the future conduct of its offcials as established under U.S. federal law.  And what's more it can't be rejected, in the particular case of Paraguay, because it is essentially correct and is based on everything that the press has denounced in Paraguay day after day."




Left-leaning Asuncion-based Ultima Hora noted (4/3):  "All of the scoldings we receive as a country are deserved.  But it matters to us that in these days Uncle Sam doesn't have sufficient authority to call on us for greater respect for human rights.  Practice what you preach!"




CAMEROON: "U.S. Abandons Its 'Ally' Paul Biya"


Thierry Ngogang reflected in Yaounde-based pro-opposition French language Mutations (4/9): "President Biya has just received a strange reward from his new 'ally'....   In its just published report on the State of Human Rights in  the world...the Bush administration accuses Biya's regime of violating human rights. It does not spare the chief of state himself."





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