Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Press Trust of India – 2016-04-14 21:16:46
“In every part of the world, we see an accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors to close the space for civil society, to stifle media and Internet freedom, to marginalize opposition voices . . .”
— US Secretary of State John Kerry
US Report Faults Key Allies for Stifling Freedom, Killing Dissidents
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(April 13, 2016) — The 40th annual State Department report on human rights is raising more eyebrows than usual this year, as the preface by Secretary of State John Kerry warns of a “global governance crisis” wherein countries around the world are cracking down on basic freedoms and stifling dissent, often violently.
While the report goes after usual targets like China and Russia, it also singles out a number of high-profile US allies on this note, criticizing NATO member Turkey for prosecuting journalists as terrorists and killing Kurdish civilians, criticizing Israel for excessive and arbitrary violence against Palestinians, and noting that Egypt’s military junta continues to torture detainees to death in its prisons.
Kerry suggested the report would “strengthen US determination” to promote human rights abroad, though the largest US recipients of foreign aid are also some of the most glaring violators of human rights, and there is no suggestion that recognizing their violations in the report will mean anything in practical terms.
US law forbids providing military aid to nations violating human rights, but it routinely does so. Indeed, US law also forbids providing aid to military dictatorships, but the flow of aid to Egypt never really stopped after the 2013 coup, only slowing slightly for a short period, amid large-scale massacres on the streets.
Kerry, and other top US officials, have argued that keeping the aid flowing gives the US leverage to encourage better behavior from violators, though again this never seems to happen in practice, with nations like Egypt and Israel routinely at the top of the US aid list and also reacting furiously at even the most minor criticism of their excesses.
US Warns of Global Attack on Freedom, Slams Some Allies
Press Trust of India
WASHINGTON, DC (April 14, 2016) — Governments around the world are cracking down on basic freedoms, the United States warned today, in a report that did not spare key US allies like Turkey and Egypt. Secretary of State John Kerry, writing the preface to his department’s annual human rights report, said attacks on democratic values point to a “global governance crisis.”
“In every part of the world, we see an accelerating trend by both state and non-state actors to close the space for civil society, to stifle media and Internet freedom, to marginalise opposition voices, and in the most extreme cases, to kill people or drive them from their homes,” he said.
The report, compiled on a country-by-country basis by US diplomats, has no legal implications for US policy and a critical write up does not compel Washington to cut ties or military aid to rights abusers or to impose sanctions upon them.
But Kerry argued that the detailed report — the 40th his department has produced — would strengthen US determination to promote what he called “fundamental freedoms” and to support those groups Washington sees as human rights defenders.
“Some look at these events and fear democracy is in retreat,” he said. “In fact, they are a reaction to the advance of democratic ideals, to rising demands of people from every culture and region for governments that answer to them.”
As might be expected, the report is critical of US rivals like Russia and China — where it says civil rights groups face increasing repression — and of foes like Iran and North Korea, where citizens face extra-judicial killings and torture.
But it also paints a grim picture of the state of play in some allied countries, including NATO member Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has cracked down on opposition media and arrested several leading journalists.
“The government has used anti-terror laws as well as a law against insulting the president to stifle legitimate political discourse and investigative journalism,” the report says.
It accuses Turkish authorities of “prosecuting journalists and ordinary citizens and driving opposition media outlets out of business or bringing them under state control.”
And, while denouncing the violence of the “PKK terrorist group,” the report accuses Turkish security forces of excesses of its own, citing “credible allegations that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.”
The report will anger Erdogan, who visited Washington last month and denied that there had been any crackdown on free expression in his country, even as his security detail tried to expel opposition journalists from the think tank hosting his speech.
Egypt, which receives USD 1.5 billion dollars in US military aid despite President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi authoritarian style of rule, also faced stern criticism.
“There were instances of persons tortured to death and other allegations of killings in prisons and detention centers,” the report says, citing NGO and UN reports of hundreds of Egyptians having gone missing since the 2011 revolution.