Briefly: The US State Department published its annual Human Rights Report on Monday, detailing the human rights situation in 198 countries and territories.
It features plenty of grim info on places like North Korea, Russia, Iran, et al. And these days, that’s a bit like a newspaper announcing “Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons” (amazingly, that headline is real).
But the annual Human Rights Report can also be notable in what it says about key US allies and partners. This year, examples include:
- 🇹🇼Taiwan → Criminal libel laws mean a journalist could land in jail for “pointing out a fact… that injures the reputation of another”
- 🇮🇳India → The lengthy list includes allegations of extrajudicial killings and even torture
- 🇯🇵Japan → There were credible reports of violence or threats of violence targeting persons with disabilities and minority groups
Intrigue’s take: The annual US Human Rights Report is a neat illustration of the timeless ‘interests vs values’ dilemma: America’s values drive it to call out injustices, while its interests sometimes drive it to partner with the perpetrators.
How does the US resolve this dilemma? Its annual Human Rights Report calls out injustices, but in a way that doesn’t have to jeopardise core partnerships. Each year, US diplomats quietly emphasise that:
- The annual Human Rights Report covers the entire world. Even the most annoyingly good country (New Zealand) gets a light rap on the knuckles, so the US isn’t really singling anyone out.
- And Congress passed laws in the 1960s and 70s requiring these annual reports, so the State Department doesn’t really have a lot of choice.
Still, the report draws strong reactions every year: the President of Mexico called the State Department “liars” on Tuesday, as did China’s Foreign Ministry.
Meanwhile, we can see the same ‘interests vs values’ dilemma playing out in the White House: President Biden will co-host the second Summit for Democracy next week, but he still has to fist-bump the occasional autocrat along the way.
Also worth noting:
- Globally, more than twice as many people live under autocratic regimes as in democracies.