State Dept. report sees 'alarming recession of human rights worldwide'

Antony Blinken said there has been an “alarming recession of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights in many parts of the world.”

 U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, Moldova March 6, 2022. (photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL VIA REUTERS)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a news conference with Moldovan President Maia Sandu (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace in Chisinau, Moldova March 6, 2022.
(photo credit: OLIVIER DOULIERY/POOL VIA REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The US Department of State released its annual Human Rights Report on Tuesday. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said that for many years there has been an “alarming recession of democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights in many parts of the world.”

“In the time since releasing our previous report, that backsliding has, unfortunately, continued,” said Blinken. Speaking about the war in Ukraine, Blinken said that in recent weeks, “as Russian forces have been pushed back from towns and cities they occupied or surrounded, and evidence mounts of their widespread atrocities...

“We see what this receding tide is leaving in its wake – the bodies, hands bound, left on streets; the theaters, train stations, apartment buildings reduced to rubble with civilians inside,” he continued. “We hear it in the testimonies of women and girls who’ve been raped and the beseeched civilians starving and freezing to death.”

He addressed the US decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council and said: “We’re fully engaged in multilateral institutions, even flawed ones. After regaining a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, we just led a successful effort to suspend Russia from that body, because a country that’s perpetrating gross and systematic violations of human rights shouldn’t sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights.”

The report contains individual chapters on nearly 200 countries and territories, Blinken explained. “Whether a country is a friend or one with which we have real differences, the measuring stick we apply is the same,” he said. “A number of governments continue to claim, falsely, that human rights need to be applied based on the local context,” Blinken continued. “Little coincidence that many of the same governments are among the worst abusers of human rights.”

 Minister of Defense Benny Gantz meets with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Minister of Defense Benny Gantz meets with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Jerusalem, on March 27, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Governments are growing more brazen in reaching across borders to threaten and attack critics, said Blinken. “Over the last year alone, Iranian intelligence agents plotted to kidnap an Iranian American journalist from her home in Brooklyn; the Assad regime threatened Syrians who were cooperating with efforts in Germany’s courts to prosecute former officials for atrocities; the Lukashenka regime in Belarus forcibly diverted an international commercial flight to arrest an independent journalist.”

“The Chinese Government continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, among other minority groups, to erode fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, and to carry out systematic repression in Tibet,” he said. “In Afghanistan, the Taliban’s takeover precipitated a humanitarian crisis, and has resulted in serious erosion of human rights, from arbitrary detentions of women, protesters, and journalists, to reprisals against security forces for the former government, to growing restrictions on where women and girls can study or work.”

He went on to say that in Ethiopia, all parties to the country’s conflict, as well as Eritrean forces, “have committed atrocities, and thousands of Ethiopians are being unjustly detained in life-threatening conditions.”

The report on Iran includes “credible reports of unlawful or arbitrary killings by the government and its agents, forced disappearance attributed to the government and its agents; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment by the government and its agents; arbitrary arrest or detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; political prisoners and detainees” and “politically motivated reprisals against individuals in another country, including killings, kidnappings, or violence.”

It also notes that there are severe restrictions on free expression and media in Iran, “including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests and prosecutions against journalists,” and violence against ethnic minorities, as well as crimes involving “violence or threats of violence” targeting the LBGTQ community, including criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct.”