Reporting on Human Rights

Posted by Charles Sellers
March 23, 2010
Man in Bolivia

2009 Country Reports on Human Rights PracticesAbout the Author: Charles Sellers serves as a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia.

On March 11, 2010, the State Department released the 2009 version of the annual Human Rights Reports. Last December, in her speech at Georgetown University honoring Human Rights Week, Secretary Clinton discussed the meaning of our human rights mission. She affirmed the principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which state that people must be free from the oppression of tyranny, torture, discrimination, and wrongful imprisonment, and she underscored that people must also be free from "the oppression of want -- want of food, health, education, and equality in law and in fact." Mandated by the U.S. Congress, the Human Rights Report speaks to these issues, and many more, including the right to free speech and a free press, the right to an independent judiciary and legislature, the right to a living wage, and the right to transparent, accountable, and responsive government institutions.

At Embassy La Paz, officers and locally employed staff work throughout the year to live up to this responsibility. We meet with a wide range of private citizens, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government representatives in an effort to provide a meaningful snapshot of the human rights situation in Bolivia. Much of the report is a collection of statistics and facts that dispassionately describe the human rights situation. Other sections contain information from brave people who choose to talk with us despite personal risks. Such people are the real heroes of the report, and they show that in all countries, even democracies, there can be harsh repercussions for speaking out against injustice, corruption, and discrimination. As Foreign Service officers, we travel across the country -- sometimes to remote areas -- to meet with people who otherwise would not have the chance to tell their stories.

As we prepare the report, some of the meetings -- especially with people alleging physical abuse -- can be emotionally draining. Others are politically and socially complex. Following recent elections, many in Bolivia's majority indigenous population feel they are being represented in the central government for the first time. We celebrate this change, but some complain minority voices -- in the media, judiciary, and other parts of civil society -- are being ignored in the process. We try to include both sides of the story whenever possible.

The annual Human Rights Report assures U.S. citizens that human rights are an important part of our foreign policy. The report also provides detailed information on the human rights situation in the countries with which we partner. Host countries -- including Bolivia -- do not always appreciate our unsolicited criticism. It's important to stress that our concern for human rights is not designed to create a false sense of U.S. superiority. We are equally aware of our own historical failures, even as we push to create a world where human rights violations do not exist.

If you would like more information or similar updates, follow the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor on Facebook and Twitter.



Jas U.
United Kingdom
March 24, 2010

Jas U. in the United Kingdom writes:

Thank you very much for setting up this forum.

Please note #freeourdad on Twitter.

I would like to highlight the gross abuse of human rights case of Mr Sarabjit Singh an Indian national facing the death penalty in Pakistan.

Mr Sarabjit Singh was convicted of attacks in a number of cities in Pakistan 19 years ago and sentenced to death and has been in solitary confinement. Until recently he was shackled. He is in a small cramp cell. He was unable stand upright and his health is suffering as a lack of exposure to light light.

Mr Sarabjit Singh maintaines his defence that he inadvertently strayed across the then porous border between India and Pakistan whilst drunk.

The court trial papers state Mr Sarabjit Singh is 'Manjit Singh' which Mr Sarabjit Singh adamantly denies. His identity has never been verified. Further no forsenic evidence has been offered linking Mr Sarabjit Singh to the attacks.
His trial was in English - Mr Sarabjit Singh does not speak English. The prosecution has retracted and changed his evidence several times, before, during and after the trial.

Both my country (the UK) and the USA are actively involved in restoring peace and order in the region and canvassing the support and assistance of Pakistan in doing so. Our countries must take the holistic approach and insist Pakistan addresses its appalling record on human rights generally and more specifically release and return Mr Sarabjit Singh to his children (whom has not seen since they were babies), his wife and sister in India. Our respective countries should intervene in this case. Please visit and sign the online petition. Thank you.

Satish B.
United States
March 24, 2010

Dr. Satish K.B. in USA writes:

I am glad you have the blog set up for the Human rights. This often in the developed countries is taken for granted,however in lesser developed countries, the record is abysmal.

One case I have been following is that of Sarabjit Singh. The man man across the India Pakistan border in 1990, a very ill defined at that time. The man had a few drinks and went out for a pee and was apprehended on his return to his house. However, then he was implicated in couple of bombings in another city. His presence in the city was not verified and his own name was mistaken- a case of mistaken identity- did not bother the police. They needed a warm body from outside Pakistan. The courtesy of providing a competent lawyer was dispensed with.The court proceeding occurred in English, which of course man the did understand, no translator was provided and of course he was convicted. Many petitions have been files, the death sentence has recently been commuted to life in prison.
So this man is in prison, barred from seeing his children, parents and his wife, Only recently his has been allowed to see him.

The Pakistan govt. needs to be told not only their own people but also people from other countries need to be protected from the Kangaroo courts and the wanton justice.


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