A Sustained Commitment to Human Rights

Posted by Uzra Zeya
April 19, 2013
Uzra Zeya Meets With Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV in 1997

Some 15 years ago, I had the distinct privilege of serving as the Human Rights Officer in Damascus, Syria. My responsibilities were much like those of the hundreds of colleagues who contributed to the 2012 Human Rights Reports at U.S. missions worldwide. I met with local civil society leaders and human rights defenders as well as government officials and the media in order to provide an accurate, honest picture of the human rights situation on the ground. We pride ourselves on this objective reporting, and it was a great honor to stand beside Secretary of State John Kerry as he released the 2012 Human Rights Reports today.

The Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are the single most exhaustive set of reports on human rights practices globally. This year, we celebrate the 35th anniversary of the reports and decades of U.S. engagement on human rights as a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy. The world has changed dramatically since the first reports were published at the request of the U.S. Congress in 1977. Dictators have fallen and democracies born, and yet many human rights challenges and opportunities remain. Today, we release our reports covering 199 countries and territories.

Human rights challenges are at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy concerns for a reason. Countries that respect the human rights of their citizens tend to be the most stable, and our most natural partners. Accordingly, we are particularly concerned by the shrinking space for civil society and the increased frequency of threats against media both new and traditional. All too frequently, these reports once again document the discrimination and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities, women, persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, informal sector workers, and other vulnerable groups around the world. And as we work to solve these challenges we look to partner with like-minded nations and civil society in advancing a stronger human rights future.

2012 was also a year of human rights developments and growth. We commend steps towards emerging democracy and a tentative opening for civil society in Burma. Georgia held parliamentary elections resulting in the first constitutional transfer of power since the country's independence, and Egypt and Libya held their first round of elections since the Arab Awakening.

I witnessed these transitions, and many more, from various perspectives throughout my career in the Foreign Service. And yet, as we release the human rights reports today, I am particularly thinking of the brave human rights defenders and civil society leaders with whom I worked so many years ago. Bashar Al-Asad's brutality against his own people continues, yet they, and others like them around the world, remain a testament to human strength in the struggle for dignity and justice. After all, as Martin Luther King, Jr. reaffirmed, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."Editor's Note: The photograph accompanying this entry shows the author, Uzra Zeya, meeting with Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East Ignatius IV in Syria in 1997.



California, USA
April 20, 2013

Bruce in California writes:

I would like to read the Department of State's response to the recent open letter on US Drone Strikes And Targeted Killings that was jointly authored by the following organizations:

American Civil Liberties Union
Amnesty International
Center for Human Rights & Global Justice, NYU School of Law
Center for Civilians in Conflict
Center for Constitutional Rights
Global Justice Clinic, NYU School of Law
Human Rights First
Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School
Human Rights Watch
Open Society Foundations

The text of the joint letter is available here: hrw.org/news/2013/04/12/joint-letter-president-obama-us-drone-strikes-and-targeted-killings

John R.
California, USA
April 20, 2013

John Scott R. in California writes:

What about my rights? I was born in San Diego the NAVY did something too me. What about my rights?

Shailesh T.
April 22, 2013

Shailesh T. in India writes:

Its good news to know a great article about human rights. Thank for share.

New Mexico, USA
April 22, 2013

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"Today there is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence. It is either nonviolence or nonexistence. I feel that we've got to look at this total thing anew and recognize that we must live together. That the whole world now it is one--not only geographically but it has to become one in terms of brotherly concern. Whether we live in America or Asia or Africa we are all tied in a single garment of destiny and whatever effects one directly, effects one in-directly.

"I'm concerned about living with my conscience and searching for that which is right and that which is true, and I cannot live with the idea of being just a conformist following a path that everybody else follows. And this has happened to us. As I've said in one of my books, so often we live by the philosophy 'Everybody's doing it, it must be alright.' We tend to determine what is right and wrong by taking a sort of Gallup poll of the majority opinion, and I don't think this is the way to get at what is right.

"Arnold Toynbee talks about the creative minority and I think more and more we must have in our world that creative minority that will take a stand for that which conscience tells them is right, even though it brings about criticism and misunderstanding and even abuse."

Excerpted from a 1967 interview of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Arnold Michaelis.


"All nations must choose peace." (UNGA)
"All options are on the table" (in several case senarios involving hostile nations)

- President Obama

Focusing on the duality of things tends to complicate matters, the trick is to get them to become greater than the sum of their parts in practical application.

I don't suppose this would cure all the ills of the world, but if the global village planted trees and Dictators/terrorists, folks globally could anticipate a better future than not.

One grows, the others decompose. One becomes the green future survival is based on, the others become fertilizer.

One is politically inoccuous, planting the others a political and social necessity to safeguard modern civilization.

It's pretty simple when you get right down to solutions to the massive human rights abuses happening globally, it's how to get both done in the fastest, most efficiant manner possible to save lives that seems to hang the international community up, and that can't become a matter of one nation's national security interests, but in humanity's interest as implemented by a community of nations.

Or the community of nations will keep re-learning those harsh lessons of history in which it didn't act to fully and unconditionally secure the peace of nations and peoples.

All other human rights will follow accordingly if the right to life, liberty, and the persuit of happiness is humanity's right.


April 22, 2013

Abdullahi in Nigeria writes:

Matters on human right we in northern Nigeria we have no body to help us on our right because the security personnel are killing people,rapping women's,looting money in our home, nobody can't stop them or talk to them because the government in power is not interested of ending this genuineness ed in Yobe and Borno in the name of boko Haram were is the human right,we are talking about?

Tuanku H.
April 29, 2013

Tuanku Bustamam H. in Indonesia writes:

The most important one of the Human Right Subject, is the one of 22 materials, to be taught worldwide on: How to realize each one of every people worldwide that she(he) has a Freedom to have her (his) Right to act and behave in Living on any action for the basic or fondamental needs as Human Beeing. It is;

H U M A N R I G H T !


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