Remarks on Release of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs
February 28, 2005
Good morning. On behalf of Secretary Rice, who could not be here today, it is my pleasure to present the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. These reports are a key part of this Administration’s activities to promote human rights and democracy around the world--part of President Bush’s forward strategy of freedom.
I would like to thank Ambassador Mike Kozak, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, his staff, and other colleagues in the State Department who played a role in the compilation of these important reports.
Our approach on human rights is set clearly and unambiguously by President Bush. In his inaugural address, he stated: "The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." In his State of the Union address, he elaborated that: "Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures. And because democracies respect their own people and their neighbors, the advance of freedom will lead to peace." In other words, the United States will work globally to promote democracy, as democracy is the best guarantor of human rights.
Promoting human rights is not just an element of our foreign policy--it is the bedrock of our policy, and our foremost concern. These reports put dictators and corrupt officials on notice that they are being watched by the civilized world, and that there are consequences for their actions. With these in hand, we look forward to the day when all nations are part of the growing community of democracies, and tyranny and slavery exist only as a sad chapter in human history.
We find ourselves in an era of monumental advancement for human rights and democracy. As the President noted in Bratislava just last week, there was a rose revolution in Georgia, an orange revolution in Ukraine, and most recently, a purple revolution in Iraq. In Lebanon, we see growing momentum for a ‘cedar revolution’ that is unifying the citizens of that nation to the cause of true democracy and freedom from foreign influence. Hopeful signs span the globe, and there should be no doubt that the years ahead will be great ones for the cause of freedom.
As these reports show, there is much to do. Freedom and the ability to choose one’s government still elude many people and many portions of the globe. In much of the broader Middle East, people are increasingly conscious of the freedom deficit in the region and eager to taste the freedom and liberties that are being enjoyed elsewhere. If freedom and democracy work in Muslim nations like Indonesia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iraq, why should they not be the norm in Iran, Libya, Syria and Saudi Arabia? Cuba’s government remains a blight on the stunning advancement of freedom worldwide. China’s human rights conduct remains one of the top concerns of the U.S. Government. Throughout China and notably in Tibet, affronts to the dignity of human life abound. In North Korea and Burma, citizens languish under repressive regimes which do not govern for their people but rather against them. We are concerned with circumstances in many other parts of globe, and we detail them concisely in these reports.
But our message today is one of hope and promise. This report is the embodiment of President Bush’s commitment that the United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who live in tyranny and hopelessness and struggle for a better life. Our message to these true patriots of their nations is that you are not ignored and you are not forgotten. Furthermore, we will not excuse those who are responsible for your oppression. The months ahead will see intensive efforts by this Administration to advance the President’s bold agenda to support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture. In this journey, our principles--our commitment to freedom and the rights of individuals--are our compass. These reports are our map.
At this point, I would like to turn the briefing over to Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Mike Kozak, who led the effort resulting in the production of this fine policy tool.
Released on February 28, 2005