Urhobo Historical Society

Human Rights Watch's Comments On


U.S. State Department Rights Reports Critique

(Washington, March 4, 2002) -- This year's State Department Human Rights Reports are largely candid and accurate, Human Rights Watch said today, while urging the Bush Administration to apply the reports' findings to coming policy decisions.

The reports single out countries like China and Russia for using the war on terrorism to legitimize repression, and honestly describe abuses committed by U.S. allies such as Uzbekistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. An exception is the Colombia chapter, which appears to inflate the military's progress in cutting ties with paramilitary groups to set the stage for certifying compliance with Congressional human rights conditions.

The reports also forthrightly acknowledge that terrorists gain adherents in countries where human rights are denied and civil liberties are repressed.

"The Administration argues forcefully in this report that defending human rights is vital to fighting terrorism," said Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. "That argument needs to be reflected in the alliances it is forging, the money it is spending, and the bases it is building overseas."

"For the most part, the State Department deserves credit for pulling no punches," he added. "But a human rights report is not by itself a human rights policy."

Nigeria: The report provides a comprehensive and accurate description of the poor human rights situation in Nigeria. However, it does not adequately indicate the Nigerian government's responsibility to investigate and prosecute serious human rights abuses. The report notes numerous killings by the security forces and other violence during inter-communal conflicts, but does not stress the government's continuing failure to investigate these abuses or take preventive action. While appropriately describing the killing of civilians in October in Benue state as "the year's most egregious case," the report goes on to attribute the killings in part to a lack of training. In fact, this incident was a well-organized reprisal operation following the abduction and killing of nineteen soldiers by an armed group. The
U.S. should ensure that any future assistance to the Nigerian security forces be linked to measurable progress in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for the killings and destruction in Benue in 2001, as well as the killing and destruction in Odi in 1999.