Friday, May 25, 2012

Reporting on Rights

On Wednesday, Amnesty International released Amnesty International Report 2012:  The State of the World's Human Rights.  Yesterday, the State Department released its 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  Both are valuable reports, but there are a few differences worth noting.

First, the State Department's report is more comprehensive, both with respect to the number of countries and the range of issues covered.  (Country Reports on Human Rights Practices covers "almost 200 countries" while Amnesty's State of the World's Human Rights covers 155.)  Topically, the State Department reviews state practices under seven broad categories:  (1) respect for the integrity of the person, (2) respect for civil liberties, (3) respect for political rights, (4) official corruption and government transparency, (5) government attitude regarding international and nongovernmental investigation of alleged violations of human rights, (6) discrimination, societal abuses, and trafficking in persons, and (7) workers' rights.  Amnesty's report focuses more on the civil and political rights that are central to its mission (including use of the death penalty), but individual country reports are not as formulaic as those in the State Department report.

There is one significant difference in the two reports that Americans should note.  The State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices contains no assessment of the human rights record of the United States; Amnesty's report does.  It is instructive reading for those with illusions of righteousness.