Posted by: Benjamin Barry, Political Officer

Later today Secretary Clinton will release the 2010 Human Rights Report in Washington.  The report is comprised of individual Country Reports covering over 190 nations.  They inform U.S. government policymaking and can serve as a reference to other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders and journalists. The Country Reports aim to advance worldwide efforts to end abuses, to help strengthen the capacity of countries to protect the human rights of all, and to shine a spotlight on countries that fail to live up to international human rights standards. The Human Rights Report is one aspect of a larger effort that President Obama has made to put human rights at the forefront of the U.S. foreign policy agenda.  But the Obama Administration isn’t alone; the promotion of human rights has the support of many prominent and respected Americans from both political parties.

The Country Reports that will be released later today assess each country’s situation independently against universal human rights precepts and each Country Report is intended to stand on its own. They are not compared to each other or placed in any order other than alphabetically by region.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Thomas Melia presents Deputy Presidential Administration Head Andriy Portnov a copy of a book he edited before he entered government assessing the U.S. commitment to individual liberty and human rights when the two met in November in Kyiv

The focus of the Country Reports is on the human rights performance of other governments.  As the Human Rights officer at the Embassy I am often asked if the United States examines its own human rights record.  We do.  The most recent comprehensive self-assessment was conducted as part of the Universal Periodic Review process established through the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.  You can read the initial report the United States submitted to the Council last year here and an addendum to the report submitted to the Council earlier this month here.  These reports reflect extensive consultations across the country with the American public and acknowledge areas in which the United States could improve its performance.

In addition to the government’s own self-assessment, America’s open, democratic system allows U.S. citizens and people abroad to comment on U.S. policies without fear. The American system of government is not infallible but it does provide a variety of self-correcting mechanisms, such as a robust civil society, a vibrant free media, independent branches of government – including the courts – and a well established rule of law.