Rep. James P. McGovern Applauds Secretary Clinton at the Release of the Annual Human Rights ReportsWednesday, February 25, 2009
Washington – The Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA) today thanked Secretary of State Clinton for her strong commitment to human rights on behalf of the new Administration. As Secretary Clinton said, “Our commitment to human rights is driven by faith in our moral values, and also by the knowledge that we enhance our own security, prosperity, and progress when people in other lands emerge from shadows and shackles to gain the opportunities and rights we enjoy and treasure.”
Said Congressman McGovern: “The just released 2008 Country Reports, drafted and produced under the former Administration, symbolize the continuing commitment of our country to the defense of human rights. While the Reports generally do a very good job of giving a detailed picture of the state of those human rights it reports on, I strongly urge Secretary Clinton to expand the focus of future Reports to cover all internationally recognized human rights norms as one body of indivisible rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“For the Reports to fully meet the legislative requirements as commissioned by Congress, we must recognize that social, cultural and economic rights are a full part of the human rights catalogue. For example, environmental degradation that adversely affects indigenous communities is reduced to a single sentence in the 2008 Ecuador Report, and the long-standing legal fight of the indigenous community against American oil giants in Ecuadorian courts is not mentioned at all. Thus, the Reports simply fall short of the legislative mandate. Similar cases are found around the world, affecting the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples, tribal and ethnic minorities, and ordinary citizens to seek redress, reparations or legal relief. Increasingly, more and more nations are seeking to amend their constitutions or legal frameworks to codify the right to food, health and shelter, which should require futureReports to monitor and assess how these rights are protected. I further suggest the inclusion of a new section in the Country Reports that directly addresses our frank assessment of a government’s record under the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine, to inform Members of Congress of egregious failures of sovereign nations to protect their civilian population as we formulate our own foreign policy in support of interventions by the international community.
“Finally, and I can’t emphasize this enough, for the Country Reports to maintain their relevance and their original intent, they must be the jump-off point for action by Congress and the Administration, and not just a complete and timely accounting that sits on government bookshelves.”