The U.S. State Department on Thursday released the government's annual compendium of country-by-country human rights reports, but ran into criticism from rights groups for holding double standards.He notes that Saudi Arabia, for instance, is entirely missing from the widely read introductory overview. "That will not go unnoticed in the region," he says. "It will bring forth accusations of double standards." Hicks also points to the example of Bahrain, the reporting on which is notably robust in the new report. "During that same year, we had a large sale of arms to Bahrain by the U.S., despite several human rights problems there being unresolved," he says. "There is a consistent trend across the Middle East. Look at the military assistance that went to Egypt even though problems relating to the persecution of NGOs remained outstanding. Such actions send contradictory messages." Even as the reports have continued to improve, "every year U.S. policymakers ignore these findings," concurs Geoff Thale, programme director with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), an advocacy group. "U.S. policymakers act as if the reports never happened," Thale said in a statement, pointing to inconsistencies between U.S. rights research and foreign policy in Colombia, Mexico and Honduras.
"The United States continues to funnel assistance to militaries with patterns of abuse, to train police forces that have long-standing problems with corruption and criminal infiltration, and to work closely with security forces that frequently ignore the rule of law." Once again, the new report does not cover the United States itself. For many observers, particularly in governments singled out by Washington for criticism, this notable absence has long translated into a certain lack of legitimacy for the report overall. More worrying for some observers is not necessarily the lack of information on what takes place within the United States, but rather the quiet absence of reference to U.S. actions in other countries. "The U.S. this year has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people through drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and is evolving a model of lawless assassination on an industrial scale that would not reflect well in any balanced human rights report," Medea Benjamin, a political campaigner, told IPS. "To talk about human rights activities in Pakistan and not bring up the massive death toll from U.S. drone strikes is ridiculous. Unfortunately, it shows that the U.S. is not really open to reflecting the reality on the ground."
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