March 5, 1999



The U.S. State Department report on the human rights situation in 194 countries throughout 1998 garnered mostly denunciations, but also some praise in the media abroad. Critics of the document revived their perennial charges that, with the report, the U.S. is "interfering" in other countries' domestic matters and that it has no authority to appoint itself the arbiter of human rights. Beijing's official press, for example, accused the U.S. of "moral arrogance" by pursuing an "ostrich policy, endlessly censuring others but reluctant to do self-criticism." Those endorsing the report acknowledged that, as a Dhaka pundit put it, "there is no denying the fact that the report is an important assessment of the human rights situation in the countries mentioned." Several, notably in the opposition and independent press, used the criticisms in the report to prod their governments to redress internal human rights violations, as did New Delhi's centrist Asian Age, which asserted, "[The report] should make the Vajpayee government sit up and take notice." Similarly, a Mexico City writer urged, "We must clean our own house, because only thus can we halt the interventionist efforts of [U.S.] authorities." Several European analysts, particularly in Germany, pointed to the recent executions of Karl and Walter LaGrand in Arizona, coinciding with the report's publication, as an indictment of the human rights situation in the U.S. itself. They were joined by editors in East Asia and Latin America who inveighed against the U.S. for exercising a "double standard" on the human rights issue, by "preaching" abroad while continuing to practice the death penalty. Regional highlights follow:

EUROPE-- Papers in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain juxtaposed the fact that the "barbaric" death penalty is still being carried out in the U.S. with, according to Munich's Sueddeutsche Zeitung, America's "preachy and self-righteous" penchant for "determining the rules according to which morality and law are to be measured all over the world." A Brussels daily noted that Amnesty International "immediately pointed out an 'omission' in the [reports'] inventory: fifty states, from Alabama to Wisconsin, where human rights are being flouted."

EAST ASIA/PACIFIC-- Comment from China and Vietnam was predictably harsh, with the official press lambasting the U.S. for posing as a "human rights judge" and "world policeman." Beijing's official Communist Party People's Daily, for example, intoned, "The report fabricated unwarranted charges against other countries" and urged the U.S. "to stop using the pretext of human rights to interfere in another country's internal affairs."

SOUTH ASIA-- Editors in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh anticipated that the "sharp criticisms" and "damning indictments" contained in the report would "prove an eye opener." A New Delhi writer conceded, "Unfortunately, much of what has been said in the report is true." While several decried "American interference," others, such the Peshawar-based, independent Frontier Post cheered that "foreigners have now begun to say what is the real state of affairs."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE-- Mexico's left-of-center La Jornada labeled the report "offensive and hypocritical." A Bogota analyst judged, "[the report] must be interpreted as an alert about the lack of popular commitment by our universal values." An opposition Lima daily held, "the U.S. is not wrong says that the Peruvian government is a dictatorship."

This survey is based on 50 reports from 20 countries, February 1 - March 5.

EDITOR: Katherine Starr

To Go Directly To Quotes By Region, Click Below





GERMANY: "Ignorant"

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger wrote this editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/5): "After Walter LaGrand's execution, there is great outrage.... One reason for this outcry is that the United States likes to play the advocate of human rights in the world and feels called upon to give grades (on adherence to human rights). The problem is that this outcry will go unheard and will not be understood in the United States. And the accusation that the United States ignored a Vienna Convention and the International Court of Justice, or, to put it briefly, flouted international law, will leave no effect on the United States. This is exactly the problem we always have with the U.S. global hyperpower: It subjects itself to international law only when it serves U.S. interests."

"LaGrand Case Exposes U.S. Double Standard"

Right-of-center Bonner Rundschau opined (3/5): "The vain efforts of the Bonn government to save the lives of the two LaGrand brothers made clear that the United States applies double standards when it comes to adhering to international laws and agreements. Those who criticize countries such as China because of its treatment of human rights and then present themselves as the global guardian of inalienable human rights must apply the same standards at home. And in this respect, the United States does not look very good. It cannot be that countries adhere to conventions and judgments only when they suit them. Dictators such as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic are then only encouraged to continue their policies. This is certainly not in the interest of the United State and the free world."

"U.S. Disrespect For Law Opens Doors For Others"

Right-of-center Offenburger Tagblatt held (3/5): "U.S. disrespect for international law opens the door wide to countries such as China, Turkey, Iraq and Serbia. With Walter LaGrand's execution, the Americans have done the international community a great disservice."

"Rather Late"

Left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau opined (3/4): "The case of the LaGrand brothers is making very clear the brutal manner in which the death penalty is being executed on the other side of the Atlantic...and this is even being done by populist provincial politicians who think of everything but human rights.... Even though it is impossible to influence the (LaGrand) case, clear international stop signals would be important. Signals not only from courts but also from the international community of nations which seems to become more and more accustomed to the double standards of U.S. policy."

"U.S Shouldn't Be Outraged By Other Countries' Conduct"

Centrist Freie Presse of Chemnitz held (3/3): "Obviously, the United States has no problem...acting as a strong advocate of human rights, but, at the same time executing people at home. In 1998, the United States, together with China and Congo, voted against a stop in executions, which the UN Human Rights Commission demanded as a first step for the global abolition of the death penalty. When does the United States finally understand that there is no 'clean' method to kill someone, that executions and human rights do not fit together? Of course, nobody wants to advocate clemency for murderers but the state should not become a murderer himself.

"The killing of people who are imprisoned, who cannot commit a murder any more, is judicial murder. When the state tries to act as judge over life and death, justice does not take its course but revenge is being taken. Those who support such a practice should not feel outraged at countries such as China or Iran."

"Grading By A Self-Righteous State"

Washington correspondent Stefan Kornelius averred in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (3/1): "The U.S. government conveys the impression that it determines the rules according to which morality and law are to be measured all over the world. This report that grades all states is taken seriously only by a few states. This preachy and self-righteous tone is at best smiled at as a U.S. peculiarity. And in the worst case, the report confirms the cliche of a stupid superpower--thus fanning anti-Americanism. It is not difficult to make people angry by recalling the German national executed in Arizona, where fundamental principles of international law were bypassed, and then to quote the parts of the report that deal with the legitimacy of trials in Germany. It should not be surprising that countries such as China ignore justified criticism by saying that the United States does not assess its domestic human rights situation. However, this form of debate is cheap. This is why the U.S. government should end moral crusades and return to politics. It is up to the UN or to Amnesty International to make credible judgments regarding (human rights) violations of individual countries. The U.S. report has lost its positive effect."

"U.S. At Same Level As Iran, China"

Right-of-center Schwaebische Zeitung of Leutkirch commented (2/26): "At the end of 1998, the United States carried out its 500th execution since the re-introduction of the death penalty in 1976. By doing so, the country is at the same level as the dictatorships in China and Iran where criminals are hanged on construction cranes to allow the people not only in the first rows to see what is happening.... The death penalty is not only inappropriate as a means of preventing and fighting crimes, but it is also barbaric."

"A Deficiency In The U.S. System"

Herbert Riehl-Heyse opined in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/25): "It is a scandal that the death penalty is still applied (in the United States). The fact that a state based on democracy and Christian values still considers it permissible in the year 1999 to kill people by lethal injections, by gas, or by bullets is a scandal.... The really interesting question is why the United States is the only Western state practicing the death penalty? The reason cannot be that the Americans are...more brutal, more vindictive, more emotionless than the rest of mankind. The reason for their views can then only be based on a great deficiency concerning the organization of their state, which has mainly to do with the fact that the U.S. justice system has been politicized to a very unhealthy degree. High judges are elected by the people, very tough prosecutors are awarded high-ranking jobs and governors do not think that they can pardon people if they want to be re-elected.... There is no chance of influencing this horrible situation from Europe. This must be done by the Americans themselves.... The only thing we Europeans can do is to state in a shocked manner how thin is the cover of civilization and how necessary it is to protect it."

"Same Injustice For All"

Bernd Pickert argued in left-of-center Die Tageszeitung of Berlin (2/24): "It seems that international protests only strengthen the will in the United States to protect its national spleen from foreign interference. National characteristics such as carrying weapons or executing people are things that need to be protected as cultural achievements.... (In the United States), mercy is considered weakness, every move back is considered opportunism....

"[The questions is how] to convince the United States to give up this pre-democratic understanding of society."

RUSSIA: "Report Not So Much Legal As Political"

Boris Volkhonsky noted in reformist, business-oriented Kommersant Daily (3/2): "The report is not so much legal as political, as confirmed by a number of recent events."

BELGIUM: "Human Rights: Pointing The Finger"

New York correspondent Nathalie Mattheiem remarked in independent Le Soir (3/1): "Beijing is on the eve of a visit by Madeleine Albright to prepare for the Chinese prime minister's visit to Washington this spring, and human rights remains on top of U.S. senators' worries.... Amnesty International immediately pointed out an 'omission' in the [U.S. Human Rights Reports'] inventory: 'Fifty states, from Alabama to Wisconsin, where human rights are being flouted.'"

BULGARIA: "Report Garners Widespread Comment"

The release of the State Department's report was covered widely in the Bulgarian press (2/27-28). The daily English-language news summary of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency ran a balanced, full-page summary of some of the most salient points of the report. The report's criticism of corruption in the judiciary was a popular theme, repeated in several headlines. Opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party Duma attempted to extrapolate this criticism to include a general accusation of corruption against the current United Democratic Forces (UDF) government. The daily further claimed that the State Department report indicated a "climate of lawlessness." (Note: the report credited the UDF administration, especially the Ministry of Interior, with notable progress.) In contrast to Duma's slant, the UDF's daily, Demokratzia noted the report's claim that human rights in Bulgaria are generally respected, and mentioned the lack of political killings and the existence of academic freedom. The more politically neutral tabloid press paid particular note to the report's discussion of judicial corruption, economic stabilization, delayed privatization, and the low per capita GDP and standard of living in Bulgaria."

CROATIA: "In The American Way"

Government-controlled Vjesnik carried this comment by Fran Visnar (3/1): "The State Department carefully put together and released the Human Rights Report for 1998 precisely at a favorable moment for American foreign policy and U.S. global interests. Croatia hasn't been omitted this time, and accusations about the entire state system's authoritarianism and manipulations in controlling the political processes in the country are especially harsh and unpleasant.... It would be wrong to reject all the listed accusations and pretend as if nothing were happening. Anyone who wants to know what the American administration really thinks about him has to read the original State Department report very carefully and make some conclusions.... However, the content of the report, in a form which seriously hurts Croatia's reputation, should be discussed and the gentlemen at the State Department should, in a decent manner (emotional outbursts in the media are not of much use), be informed that they are not the only ones who are precisely analyzing the global situation, and that, in the case of Croatia, they have exaggerated things, reducing [the country] to the level of an African country which is collapsing under the burden of corruption and institutionalized abuses and crimes in all segments of the executive branch.... It's not as important to respond to Americans that human rights are being violated in their country also.... Our problems should be resolved in a reasonable and smart way at home without special encouragement (i.e., 'assistance') from the outside and especially not from a powerful country that likes to give moralistic lessons to everyone in the world, while it washes its own laundry [and] bleaches the 'American way.'"

"One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward"

Semi-independent, Split-based Slobodna Dalmacija carried this commentary by Bisera Lusic (3/1): "After a first, and only hasty reading of the State Department report, it is clear that Croatia is only at the beginning of the democratization path expected by the American administration.... The State Department doesn't list suggestions, doesn't propose solutions, doesn't compare countries, but it is clear that it no longer sees Croatia as a country that can justify its own failures with the war or the recent horrors of war.... And the State Department isn't the only one which is...warning of the need for a strong turn and clear commitment to such steps [that will lead to the] full democratization of the [Croatian] system.... The latest State Department report only confirms international expectations toward Croatia. These expectations, if recognized on time, can be a new direction for the country's future. If not, Croatia will find itself in a vicious circle, and reports on our country will be reduced to 'one step forward, two steps backwards.'"

CZECH REPUBLIC: "What Shall We Do With U.S. Human Rights Report?"

Adam Drda argued in Lidove Noviny (3/1): "Americans are openly telling us that we are not completely perfect about human rights.... We can describe a few typical [Czech] reactions.... The first one can be described as a 'defensive' one: Americans should first set their house in order.... The second approach is a trivializing one: Our situation is not that bad.... The third one could be an approach of over exaggerated agreement: We are a lousy country.... The report is not slander or a threat, but a look at the status quo as seen by a country that we have a friendly relationship with. Nobody expects an immediate reaction to the report. What is expected is that it will be considered seriously. When we do this, we find out that the American opinion is usually right."

THE NETHERLANDS: "A Stain On U.S. And Its Double Standard"

Influential liberal De Volkskrant had this inside-page editorial (3/5): "German citizen Walter LaGrand was executed in Arizona two weeks before the same happened to his brother. These facts are reason to be sad. Capital punishment is irrevocable, cruel and does not suit a civilized nation. The case of these two brothers and the circumstances under which the execution of Walter LaGrand was carried out are even more horrible.... The execution of the LaGrand brothers is a legal and moral stain on the United States. In addition, one could say that there is also political damage. The fact that Arizona refused to observe the ICJ ruling will affect German/American relations. The U.S. government could be blamed for using a double standard because it is making quite a big deal of human rights elsewhere in the world. The only way the United States could refute this accusation is by reviewing capital punishment."

SPAIN: "Two-Faced United States"

Liberal El Pais opined (3/5): "U.S. disdain for international human rights principles is not limited to matters of international concern in which its obstructionism in prohibiting the use of land mines and military recruiting under the age of 18, or in creating an International Criminal Court have been only too apparent.... But in few areas is its hypocrisy as evident as in its use of the death penalty which has now claimed the life of a German citizen convicted of murder, Walter LaGrand, who was put to death in an Arizona gas chamber Wednesday.... The fact that one in every seven persons condemned to death eventually turns out to be innocent seems to make no impression on Americans, [nor does the fact that] the death penalty is applied arbitrarily...given that it is visited more upon blacks and poor defendants...than upon whites who are better able to pay for an effective legal defense. America's two-faced approach to capital punishment not only damages its credibility when it seeks to criticize foreign abuses, it also clouds foreigners' perceptions of the United States as a modern, progressive society."

TURKEY: "Turkey And The U.S."

Cengiz Candar wrote in mass-appeal Sabah (3/2): "Turkey's relations with the United States are shaped not only according to the Pentagon's strategic assessments. There is also input from the State Department. The Turkey section of the department's annual Human Rights Report does not present a pretty picture, at all. The report has assessments such as the Turkish government depriving the Kurdish population of their basic political, cultural and language rights. If the situation continues like this, we are likely to have even a bitter report in 1999.... There are violations of basic legal principles. One of the most striking ones is that Ocalan's interrogations are being leaked to newspapers.... This is a clear violation of the Turkish legal system."


CHINA: "U.S. Human Rights Policy Aimed Only At Others"

Gu Ping said in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 3/3): "By issuing the 'Human Rights Report,' the United States is attempting to control the world not only in terms of strength but also spirit.... Beating around the bush to avoid mentioning its own problems is a feature of the U.S. human rights policy. The United States is pursuing a moral 'ostrich' policy, endlessly censuring others but reluctant to do self-criticism. During his China visit last year, President Clinton at one point expressed the idea of studying so-called 'dissidence,' and under what circumstances it unites a society or divides a society. Admittedly, the president's attitude is...constructive. However, the U.S. Human Rights Report this year has once again returned to the old road of 'moral arrogance'."

"Human Rights Record In The United States"

NOTE: Official, English-language China Daily (3/2) devoted two complete pages (p. 3-4) to the article below. The second page continued the article under the headline "U.S. Minorities Discriminated Against." Subtitles within the article were: "The Threat To Life, Freedom, And Personal Safety;" "Dollar Democracy; Troubled With Poverty;" "An Abyss Of Racial Discrimination;" "Rights And Interests Of Women And Children Not Guaranteed" and "Ignoring International Conventions On Human Rights." The full text was also carried by several other newspapers including People's Daily, Guangming Daily, Beijing Daily and Legal Daily.

Official, English-language China Daily averred (3/2): "The United States has issued its '1998 Human Rights Report.' Again, posing as a 'human rights judge,' the United States has attacked the human rights records of more than 190 countries and regions. The report accuses China of committing 'widespread and well documented human rights abuses,' but did not say a single word about the human rights problems in America. In fact, the United States, which often grades the human rights records of other countries, gets low marks from its own people and the international community. The United States does not have a good human rights record itself but likes to play the role of the 'world human rights policeman,' making unwarranted accusations about other countries that result in strenuous objections and resistance from these and other countries. The U.S. government needs to pay attention to its own human rights situation, mind its own business and avoid interfering in the internal affairs of other countries."

"Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Comments On U.S. Report"

Xinhua news agency said in official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 2/28): "Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue pointed out that, without uttering a single word about the cases of serious human rights violations in its own country, the U.S. government issued a Human Rights Report pointing the finger at other countries.

"The report fabricated unwarranted charges against other countries' human rights conditions and made irresponsible comments about their internal affairs. This is a typical example of having a double standard on the human rights issue. China expressed strong resentment and firm opposition to the U.S. actions, and urged it to stop using the pretext of human rights to interfere in another country's internal affairs."

"State Department Practice Backfires"

Official English-language China Daily remarked (2/26): "James Lilley, former ambassador to Beijing, who used to cope with the effects of the annual Human Rights Report criticizing China, said that the annual scorecards have a down side. 'The human rights report gets people so angry that it sometimes jeopardizes some of the positive programs, so in that sense it is negative,' he said."

HONG KONG: "U.S. 'Human Rights Stick' Strikes Hong Kong"

Pro-PRC Ta Kung Pao had this column (3/3): "The U.S. State Department issues a 'Human Rights Report' every year, but it doesn't report on its own internal affairs; instead it points its finger at the human rights situation of other countries and even the whole world. China's human rights situation is 'always' a target for criticism. It is really ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that post-reversion Hong Kong has become a target for 'irresponsible' criticism this year.... The U.S. 'Human Rights Report' claimed that 'judicial independence' would be hampered if Hong Kong's Final Court of Appeal had to follow the National People's Congress' interpretation of the Basic Law. The National People's Congress is the most powerful institution in China.... It seems that what the U.S. State Department means is not 'judicial independence' but 'Hong Kong's independence.'"... Hong Kong people really have a great interest in America's human rights, for example, Mr. Clinton and Ms. Lewinsky's X-rated record.... This 'progress' on human rights really earns people's 'respect'!"

"U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report"

The Hong Kong Daily News, which has no particular editorial slant, opined (2/28): "Basically, we accept the section on Hong Kong. Some points are clearly opinions, which are worth discussing.... The Hong Kong media are not as free as U.S. media. We dare not go too far in our words. However, we have made unbridled criticisms against the SAR government. In all fairness, the Hong Kong media have never enjoyed such a high degree of freedom before.... The report claimed that the judiciary showed partiality to some pro-China people. It is believed that the report is talking about the Sally Aw case. We are also worried about this; that's why we think that the Secretary for Justice, Elsie Leung, should resign to clear up doubts."

PHILIPPINES: "Mixed Reviews"

Frankie Llaguno wrote in his column in the independent Manila Times (3/1): "The Philippines got mixed reviews.... However, some U.S. human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch have questioned whether the report shielded U.S. allies from some criticism that was readily aimed at other countries. Some Third World leaders have also criticized the report as a form of American neo-imperialism because it seeks to impose American cultural and political values on other countries. They also find the report hypocritical because it did not cover violations of human rights in the United States, including its advocacy of the death penalty."

VIETNAM: "Report Does Not Benefit Vietnamese-American Ties"

Newspapers (2/28), including Vietnamese Communist Party's Nhan Dan (People), the Ministry of National Defense's Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People's Army), Hanoi Communist Party Committee Ha Noi Moi (New Hanoi), Vietnam News Agency's Vietnam News, and the Union of Youth Societies' Thanh Nien (Young People) carried remarks by Phan Thuy Thanh, the spokeswoman of Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that it was regrettable that the yearly report's assertions had been published when bilateral ties between Vietnam and the United States were making fine progress. "It does not benefit the promotion of Vietnamese-American ties" she said, adding, "We think it is not in line with international common practices for a nation to grant itself the right to judge the human rights situation of other nations."


BANGLADESH: "Special Powers Act"

Opposition Jatiya Party Janata had this editorial (3/3): "The United States has raised questions about human rights violations in Bangladesh. The annual State Department report on Bangladesh says that there have been massive abuses of the Special Powers Act in recent years.... This is not the first time the U.S. State Department has released such a report. In 1993, former Assistant Secretary of State Robin Raphel gave a grim picture of human rights violations. Police and supporters of the then-elected government disrupted a rally demanding the release of former President Ershad in Dhaka on February 27, 1992.... The U.S. State Department always points out incidents of violations of human rights with utmost care and seriousness. They strongly condemn abuse of the Special Powers Act as they have done this time against the democratic government led by Sheikh Hasina. Transparency and accountability of the judiciary are ensured in a parliamentary democracy. Why should there be a black law like the Special Powers Act if the rule of law gets highest priority? Why should this law be abused to harass political opponents in a sweeping way?"

"Our Politicians Should Be More Tolerant"

An op-ed page article in pro-government Bangla-language Janakantha said (3/2): "Maybe the United States is thinking hard about the contradictions of others, avoiding its own contradictions. But we will be able to criticize them when we have attained higher qualities of civility. Have we been able to attain those? The U.S. State Department report cannot be termed impartial because it has a specific predetermined objective. All issues have been viewed from the standpoint of a developed democratic society. Issues like child labor, women's rights, worker's rights have been reviewed in such a way that it seems the government can change these overnight if it wishes. The question of economic development as a prerequisite for changing these has been overlooked in many cases. The political analysis is a matter of truth as well as shame. The report has given a not so subtle description of violence of rival parties confronting each other on the streets avoiding parliament.... Certainly there is some exaggeration and criticism without considering our local perspective. But it is undeniable that our politicians should be more tolerant."

"Praise Or Condemnation?"

Pro-government, Bangla-language Sangbad had this editorial (3/2): "The report comments that there was not much change in the situation of human rights compared to that of the previous year. It is difficult to understand whether the comment is a praise or a condemnation. The government continued to restrict or deny many basic rights and failed to prevent or punish abuses committed by others. It is a tall order for a country like ours to prevent the violation of its citizens' human rights in a Western style.

"But it would be regrettable if it was found that there was no improvement in the human rights situation during the tenure of this government because it came to power pledging to do many things. All, including the head of the government, have pledged to preserve human rights. The decision to establish a human rights commission is a positive step in this regard. Like many other government decisions, this one is also waiting for implementation. Different circles in our country will assess the U.S. State Department report from their own standpoint. The report reflects our image in the eyes of the United States, a donor country. Does this report carry more value than that?"

"Parties Should Practice Democracy"

Independent Bangla-language Prothom Alo had this editorial (3/2): "The remarks of the U.S. State Department report on Bangladesh's human rights situation were not an exaggeration to us. Newspapers often report on corruption and lack of discipline in the police force. At the same time, the government has violated many human rights or failed to prevent or punish abuses committed by others.... There is no surprise in what was said in the State Department report. The report is so expansive that there is no need for anything else to put us to shame. Incidents of polluting politics with unrest and vengeance are increasing. Political parties are using these undesirable and immoral means for their own interest. Bangladesh's human rights situation will become clear if the proverb 'might is right' is changed into 'might is right for those who rule the nation.' The ruling party and opposition parties should practice democracy in their own party activities and tolerance to establish rule of law in Bangladesh."

"Not Wholly Beyond Our Capacity"

Independent English-language Bangladesh Observer (3/2) commented: "True, it would be too ambitious, and perhaps also too demanding--for us to suggest that our government do just as the U.S. administration is doing in dealing with crime and violence. But doing at least in part some of what is done there need not be wholly beyond our capacity or resources."

"Important Assessment"

Conservative English-language New Nation said (3/2): "The report not only depicts the human rights situation of countries, but also gives a picture of the economy and societal matters of theirs. Authorities of different countries might differ with some of the narratives and observations of the report. But there is no denying the fact that the report is an important assessment of the human rights situation in the countries mentioned."

"Eye Opener"

Centrist, English-language Independent commented (3/1): "Apart from the references to the police force, the government has been criticized in the report for using preventive detention laws against political opponents. The report, however, mentioned the government's claim that the number of such detentions under the preventive laws has decreased. We hope the government will take note of the comments and adopt appropriate corrective measures. The attention paid in the latest U.S. State Department report to the politics of violence in the country should prove an eye opener for both the ruling party and main opposition. The quality of the country's governance and sanity in public life are dependent to a great extent on the two main political parties. There is urgent need for improvement in the country's political culture."

"Servile Intellectuals And Journalists"

Opposition Bangla-language Dinkal said (3/1): "The U.S. State Department report on Bangladesh is another document of the ruling Awami League government's misrule, failure and incompetence....

"Local papers have resorted to self-censorship in publishing the report, especially in making headlines and in highlighting some of the parts that suit to their purposes. The report is a strong slap on the ruling Awami League government's face. In spite of that, we will not be surprised if servile intellectuals and journalists together start to criticize the U.S. State Department and speak in defense of the government. We like to say that the time has come for those who were weak in the face of the government to return to their senses."

INDIA: "American Interference"

Mumbai-based, pro-Hindutva Samakaleen (Gujarati) argued (3/4): "The American State Department has presented a report to its Congress on human rights abuses across the world. Included in that report is a section on India which is severely critical of the Indian government's record on human rights violations. In particular, the report criticizes the RSS, the VHP, and the Bajrang Dal for violence against Christians and missionaries. There can be no two views on the fact that communal tendencies have to be criticized in harsh terms. And there is no doubt that in India all major religions have their fair share of hotheads who are intolerant and communal. Communalism has been the bane of Indian nationhood for the last 150 to 200 years. While accepting this as a matter of fact, it should also be borne in mind that conflicts between different sections of Indian society is an internal matter of the Indian nation; if the American administration thinks it can interfere in the internal matters of India, it is wrong. It is the responsibility of all sections of society, including those who have been victims of violence in the recent past, to protest in unison, as one nation, against American interference."

"A Question Of Rights"

The centrist Asian Age opined (3/1): "The U.S. State Department's Human Rights Report should make the Vajpayee government sit up and take notice. It is a major indictment of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party for violence against the Christian community.... But it is the wording of the report that is a cause of concern. the message that (the United States) would like to see India included among those states guilty of gross human rights abuse. This would open yet another door for intervention by countries like the United States.... In the process, the distinction between India and the government in power at any particular point of time (is) lost.... Unfortunately, much of what has been said in the report is true.... It is difficult for Indians to get used to the rhetoric of hate that seems to dominate the country these days. It is this intolerance that is the unmaking of nations, and if Vajpayee at least believes that the country should have a future, he must ensure that these systematic attacks are stopped before it is too late."

PAKISTAN: "Picture Of Shame"

An editorial in the centrist News maintained (3/1): "Torture, as we all know, is routinely used by police.... A damning indictment of the way the police operate in Pakistan has recently come in the annual U.S. State Department Human Rights Report for 1998.... Public officials, however, show such callous disregard even disdain, for voices of protest against such abuse, that it remains open to question how change can be effected to put an end to such barbaric practices in the absence of any official will to reform."

"Pakistan's Human Rights Record"

An editorial in the Peshawar-based, independent Frontier Post stressed (3/1): "The United States says Pakistan's human rights record during 1998 has been poor. The Americans have voiced their disapproval particularly for the PML government's moves to restrict the freedom of the press and use the 'accountability' bureau for political purposes. They have also criticized what they term police brutalities.... The PML government is not likely to express any reaction to what is, in effect, a sharp criticism of its policies....

"The accountability process continues to be atrociously a one-sided affair.... Luckily, foreigners have now begun to say and believe what is the real state of affairs in this country."

"Horrible Scene In Kashmir"

An editorial in the second largest Urdu-language Nawa-e-Waqt asserted (2/28): "The Clinton administration's 1998 report on human rights made India a target of severe criticism for grave human rights violations in occupied Kashmir.... Although the State Department's report is an eye opener for the world at large, it does not depict the reality in full or put into perspective the Kashmiris' struggle for freedom.... America is the only superpower in the world and is in a position to take strict notice of grave human rights violations. More important is the need for America to take action against the countries which have been violating UN resolutions.... President Clinton has overcome internal difficulties and is now making efforts to make history for all time to come. The efforts include improvement of human rights and nuclear nonproliferation. South Asia in general, and Pakistan in particular, want to see the efforts succeed."


MEXICO: "Certification And Human Rights"

The lead editorial in left-of-center La Jornada held (2/27): "The great majority of nations reject the unilateral and hypocritical evaluation by the United States, the greatest consumer and one of the major producers of drugs.... At the same time, the Department of State released its annual report on human rights in the world. That document indicates that in Mexico the armed forces and public security bodies continue to commit serious violations of basic guarantees to individuals, including torture and extra-judicial killing. The denunciations in the report from Washington are not new. Many national and international organizations have sounded the alert on the humanitarian crisis in Mexico as well as on the violent attacks committed in the United States against racial minorities and undocumented Mexicans. The pronouncement of the Department of State is just as offensive and hypocritical as certification. But the serious problem of human rights in [the United States] is surprising. While successes in the official strategy against narcotics are widely disseminated by the authorities, they have done relatively little to confront and clarify the violence committed by the police and other organizations of public order."

"Caring For Human Rights, A Key Issue"

The lead editorial in largest circulation, nationalist El Universal remarked (2/27): "One notices that the U.S. government is concerned about the human rights situation in other countries while within its own borders there is a situation of concern, especially in the violation of the human rights of ethnic minorities. It is interesting that the White House persists in its interventionist attitudes and that Mexican authorities do not defend human rights more vigorously in order to avoid giving the U.S. government justification for its gendarme style actions. The Mexican government must maintain its vigilance over the human rights cabal in order to avoid having other governments try to show us how to save ourselves. Just as Mexican authorities are obliged to fight against narcotics trafficking without the vigilance of U.S. agencies, it is also a strategic obligation to act with full respect to guarantee individual rights. We must clean our own house, because only thus can we halt the interventionist efforts of the authorities of the neighboring country."

COLOMBIA: "Colombia Came Out Looking Bad"

Liberal El Espectador had this editorial (3/1): "As predicted, Colombia came out looking bad (in the human rights report), due to a chilling description of reality and not to any new revelations, as it includes comments already uttered by the NGOs a thousand times before. The same facts will probably be included in the upcoming OAS report. So it's not because of a lack of diagnosis that Colombia suffers such a serious problem, whose results are domestically painful for the Colombian nation and cause shame in front of the international community. The government recognizes the problem.... And the people widely suffer its tragic effects. However the key to sincere acceptance of responsibility is (for us to understand) that Colombia is not doing enough to halt violations of fundamental rights and to punish (the violators). Rejecting criticisms by the international community doesn't help to find a solution to the problem. Neither does searching for the solution in the high circles of power of the world. The solution must be found in Colombia, and that's where we are very short.... The Colombian government is fully committed to fighting for the defense of human rights. Surely the administration has assumed such a commitment not because the United States has called for concrete results, but because [our government] is convinced of its responsibility to the nation."

"Human Rights And The Colombian State"

Regional El Pais had this lead editorial (3/1): "Beyond a simple analysis of the action of the (Colombian) authorities, the (human rights report) issue must focus on the perspective of the society and its commitment to respect universal values.... The reiterated accusations of violations of human rights must be interpreted as an alert about the lack of popular commitment by our society, by which it is putting its own survival in danger. Therefore, we Colombians are obligated to reflect on the need to prevent the dissolution of our state of law. Without a state, the defense of human rights isn't possible, and without human rights societies necessarily die."

PERU: "The Anti-Imperialists"

Mauricio Mulder had this column in strongly-opposition La Republica (3/3): "It now turns out that in defense of 'integrity' or 'sovereignty,' the Peruvian government authorities say that the United States has no right to interfere in Peru's internal affairs and that it should see the human rights violations committed in its own society before judging others. In fact, the U.S. right is not an issue because it is not contemplated in the international juridical order. But it [doesn't] mean that human rights are internal affairs of a country.... They are universal.... And before alleging whether someone--nation or not--has this right, [a government] should just avoid violations.... The government should refute the report's content more than the form, though the report says the whole truth. The United States is not wrong when in a delicate way it says that the Peruvian government is a dictatorship. That is the main point of the report."

"Facing Reality"

Alejandro Deustua opined in pro-government Expreso (3/3): "The U.S. government has published a detailed report on the human rights situation in the world, including Peru.... In general terms, the report reflects the truth reported by the Peruvian media and the human rights organizations.... The Department of State report is not a 'per se' interference in internal affairs. On the contrary, the report contributes to the protection of inalienable and universal natural rights. The fact that humanitarian legislation is violated in the United States does not lessen the seriousness of systematical violations committed in Peru. What does constitute an interference is the fact that the most powerful country links its report to a temporary application of unilaterally and restrictive economic legislation, instead of cooperating with the UN or OAS in correcting an unacceptable situation."

"The Reports"

Pro-government Expreso declared (3/1): "Nobody knows, with complete certainty, what information is gotten, who provides it or if it is reliable. But as it is just a report, it is subject to contradictions, explanations, pointing out of errors or blanks, with no type of responsibility for the author. In other words, there is no officer--from the ambassador or consul to the deputy secretary for the respective area or the president--who could or dare to swear in a court that it deals with the whole truth. However, this is no argument to disregard the results because they reflect a real problem."

"The New Re-Election And The U.S."

Santiago Pedraglio opined in reliable, business-oriented Gestion (3/1): "What is new in the 'bad' U.S. Department of State report is its growing concern for the rule of law situation and, especially, its open criticism of the mechanisms used to attempt the re-election of President Fujimori. It is of particular importance to confirm that at the beginning and the end of the report, the U.S. Department of State shows its indisposition for the new presidential reelection. It is excessive to say that the U.S. government does not want the re-election of President Fujimori.... However, it can be stated that the Department of State is very concerned because the re-election project of Fujimori is weakening the rule of law in Peru. That is the great warning of the report."

"Serious Sanction Of Peru"

Straightforward, respected El Comercio had this editorial (2/28): "The criticism of the U.S. Department of State 1998 Human Rights Report on the Peruvian government has been very severe and conclusive. It is clear that this sustained and disconcerting analysis should not surprise anybody, considering the serious abuses against human rights, the institutional order and freedoms of expression, press and business, as well as the political system. This critical internal situation affects all Peruvians and could probably have economic consequences. For this reason, it is essential that the Peruvian government takes into account this new rebuke by the U.S. Department of State, because the sustained development of a nation is not compatible with the clear juridical insecurity in Peru."

"Control Of Our Destiny"

Pro-government Expreso had this editorial (2/27): "One of today's principal stories is the U.S. Department of State reports. We could discuss the quasi-colonial right that the United States believes it has--which allows it to undertake an annual examination and publish the results on the behavior of countries around the world, and to engage in this real but humiliating practice to which all of the countries that supposedly live under a permanent tutelage of the most advanced society of the world are subject to--but the main truth is that it would be totally useless. The United States will continue doing so while it is convenient for its interests and part of its foreign policy. And in today's globalized world, it would be insane to think that a person or a group's will from any of these remote countries could change the U.S. government policy."

"The Stick And The Carrot"

Mauricio Mulder commented in strongly-opposition La Republica (2/27): "The United States has no right to judge the rest of the countries or governments around the world.... For this purpose, there are multilateral organizations or NGOs that have neither the political motivations nor the same type of responsibilities as governments. Though the United States is in fact an advanced and enviable democracy, it cannot judge the rest of the world, because [America] commits human rights violations by applying the death penalty, by racial restrictions, by a judicial system that 'negotiates' sentences and by police abuses against immigrants.

"The political role of this report is more relative and flexible than the juridical role. It is obvious that the U.S. reports are not only expected by the governments but also by financial organizations, international advisory offices and investors. It is a determining role in the policy of many countries and excessively influences the relations with the referred country. In that sense, the United States fulfills the main goal of revealing the true image of Peru's government to the world."

For more information, please contact:

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Telephone: (202) 619-4355


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