Human Rights ‘Missing in Action’ in Trump Administration
President Donald Trump’s chief diplomat Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s absence on Friday at the release of America’s annual report of human rights covering 190 nations around the world is interpreted here as a blatant disregard for human rights abuses in many countries and the administration’s displayed disinterest to globally monitor abuses, once a top priority of any U.S. administration.
Tillerson declined to unveil the report in person, breaking with precedent established during both Democratic and Republican administrations. A senior US official answered reporters’ questions by phone on condition of anonymity rather than appearing on camera, also a break with precedent.
But there was no event or news conference to mark the report’s launch, and the State Department provided only an anonymous “senior administration official” to respond to reporters’ questions.
The state department’s annual human rights report for the year 2016 was drafted, scrutinized and perfected for release during the previous Obama administration and its state department officials around the globe in American diplomatic missions.
The Trump administration considering the release of the report as a ‘non-event’ clearly depicts that it has given law priority to monitoring human rights practices around the world.
Rob Berschinski, a former member of the National Security Council and a former deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor under President Barack Obama, said the international community will take meaning from Tillerson's absence.
A major review published by the State Department’s human rights report cited serious “human rights problems” in North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, The Philippines, Turkey and a host of other nations — including many with close economic and military ties to Washington.
As it does annually, the review, known as the “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” cited political executions, media oppression and other tyrannical activities occurring around the world.
But the low-profile manner in which Trump administration’s State Department chose to present this year’s assessment — the first since President Trump took office — has drawn swift fire from critics, who say Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the new administration as a whole have missed a key chance to take a public stand on human rights.
“Today’s decision by Secretary Tillerson to break with bipartisan tradition and forego a public, senior-level rollout of the Human Rights Reports is yet another troubling indication that the Trump administration intends to abandon U.S. leadership on human rights and universal values,” Robert G. Berschinski, said in a statement Friday.
“Such a decision sends an unmistakable signal to human rights defenders that the United States may no longer have their back, a message that won’t be lost on abusive governments,” Mr. Berschinski said.
"Tillerson's absence from the State Department's annual human rights report release reinforces the message to governments, rights activists, and at-risk minorities that the State Department might also be silent on repression, abuse, and exploitation," said Sarah Margon, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, as the Associated Press reports.
- Asian Tribune -