Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1997.
We base the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices on information available from all sources, including American and foreign government officials, victims of human rights abuse, academic and congressional studies, and reports from the press, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations (NGO's) concerned with human rights. We find particularly helpful, and make reference in most reports to, the role of NGO's, ranging from groups in a single country to those that concern themselves with human rights worldwide. While much of the information we use is already public, information on particular abuses frequently cannot be attributed, for obvious reasons, to specific sources.
By law, we must submit the reports to Congress by January 31. To comply, we provide guidance to United States diplomatic missions in July for submission of draft reports in September and October, which we update by year's end as necessary. Other offices in the Department of State provide contributions and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor prepares a final draft. Because of the preparation time required, it is possible that yearend developments may not be fully reflected. We make every effort to include reference to major events or significant changes in trends.
We have attempted to make these country reports as comprehensive as space will allow, while taking care to make them objective and as uniform as possible in both scope and quality of coverage. We have given particular attention to attaining a high standard of consistency despite the multiplicity of sources and the obvious problems related to varying degrees of access to information, structural differences in political and social systems, and trends in world opinion regarding human rights practices in specific countries.
It is often difficult to evaluate the credibility of reports of human rights abuses. With the exception of some terrorist organizations, most opposition groups and certainly most governments deny that they commit human rights abuses and often go to great lengths to conceal any evidence of such acts. There are often few eyewitnesses to specific abuses, and they frequently are intimidated or otherwise prevented from reporting what they know. On the other hand, individuals and groups opposed to a particular government sometimes have powerful incentives to exaggerate or fabricate abuses, and some governments similarly distort or exaggerate abuses attributed to opposition groups. We have made every effort to identify those groups (e.g., government forces, terrorists, etc.) that are believed, based on all the evidence available, to have committed human rights abuses. Where credible evidence is lacking, we have tried to indicate why. Many governments that profess to oppose human rights abuses in fact secretly order or tacitly condone them or simply lack the will or the ability to control those responsible for them. Consequently, in judging a government's policy, it is important to look beyond statements of policy or intent in order to examine what in fact a government has done to prevent human rights abuses, including the extent to which it investigates, tries, and appropriately punishes those who commit such abuses. We continue to make every effort to do that in these reports.
To increase uniformity, the introductory section of each report contains a brief setting, indicating how the country is governed and providing the context for examining the country's human rights performance. A description of the political framework and the role of security and law enforcement agencies with respect to human rights is followed by a brief characterization of the economy. The setting concludes with an overview of human rights developments in the year under review, mentioning specific areas (e.g., torture, freedom of speech and press, discrimination) in which abuses and problems occurred.
We have continued the effort from previous years to expand reporting on human rights practices affecting women, children, and indigenous people. We discuss in the appropriate section of the report any abuses that are targeted specifically against women (e.g., rape or other violence perpetrated by governmental or organized opposition forces, or discriminatory laws or regulations). In Section 5, we continue to discuss socioeconomic discrimination; societal violence against women, children, or minority group members; and the efforts, if any, of governments to combat these problems.
With regard to governmental policies on the welfare of children, readers may wish to consult "The State of the World's Children 1997," published by the United Nations Children's Fund, which provides a wide range of data on health, education, nutrition, and rates of infant mortality and mortality under 5 years of age in some 145 countries, as well as information on the degree of progress that these countries are making in reducing the key mortality rate for those under age 5.
The following notes on specific categories of the report are not meant to be comprehensive descriptions of each category but to provide definitions of key terms used in the reports and to explain the organization of material within the format:
Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing--Includes killings in which there is evidence of government instigation without due process of law or of political motivation by government or by opposition groups; also covers extrajudicial killings (e.g., deliberate, illegal, and excessive use of lethal force by the police, security forces, or other agents of the State whether against criminal suspects, detainees, prisoners, or others); excludes combat deaths and killings by common criminals, if the likelihood of political motivation can be ruled out (see also Section 1.g.). Although mentioned briefly here, deaths in detention due to official negligence are covered in detail in Section 1.c.
Disappearance--Covers unresolved cases in which political motivation appears likely and in which the victims have not been found or perpetrators have not been identified; cases eventually classed as political killings are covered in the above category, those eventually identified as arrest or detention are covered under "Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile."
Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment--Torture is here defined as an extremely severe form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, committed by or at the instigation of government forces or opposition groups, with specific intent to cause extremely severe pain or suffering, whether mental or physical. Discussion concentrates on actual practices, not on whether they fit any precise definition, and includes use of physical and other force that may fall short of torture but which is cruel, inhuman, or degrading. This section also covers prison conditions, including whether conditions meet minimum international standards, and deaths in custody due to negligence by government officials.
Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile--Covers cases in which detainees, including political detainees, are held in official custody without charges or, if charged, are denied a public preliminary judicial hearing within a reasonable period. Also discusses whether, and under what circumstances, governments exile citizens.
Denial of Fair Public Trial--Briefly describes the court system and evaluates whether there is an independent judiciary and whether trials are both fair and public (failure to hold any trial is noted in the category above); includes discussion of "political prisoners" (political detainees are covered above), defined as those imprisoned for essentially political beliefs or nonviolent acts of dissent or expression, regardless of the actual charge.
Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence--Discusses the "passive" right of the individual
to noninterference by the State; includes the right to receive foreign publications, for example, while the right to publish is discussed under "Freedom of Speech and Press"; includes the right to be free from coercive population control measures, including coerced abortion and involuntary sterilization, but does not include cultural or traditional practices, such as female genital mutilation, which are addressed in Section 5.
Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts--An optional subsection for use in describing abuses that occur in countries experiencing significant internal armed conflict. Includes indiscriminate, nonselective killings arising from excessive use of force, e.g., by police in putting down demonstrations, or by the shelling of villages (deliberate, targeted killing would be discussed in Section l.a.). Also includes abuses against civilian noncombatants. For reports in which use of this section would be inappropriate, i.e., in which there is no significant internal conflict, lethal use of excessive force by security forces (which is herein defined as a form of extrajudicial killing) is discussed in Section 1.a.; nonlethal excessive force in Section 1.c.
Freedom of Speech and Press--Evaluates whether these freedoms exist and describes any direct or indirect restrictions. Includes discussion of academic freedom.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association--Evaluates the ability of individuals and groups (including political parties) to exercise these freedoms. Includes the ability of trade associations, professional bodies, and similar groups to maintain relations or affiliate with recognized international bodies in their fields. The right of labor to associate and to organize and bargain collectively is discussed under Section 6, Worker Rights (see Appendix B).
Freedom of Religion--Discusses whether the constitution or laws provide for the right of citizens of whatever religious belief to worship free of government interference and whether the government respects that right. Includes the freedom to publish religious documents in foreign languages; addresses the treatment of foreign clergy and whether religious belief affects membership in a ruling party or a career in government.
Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation--Includes discussion of forced resettlement; "refugees" may refer to persons displaced by civil strife or natural disaster as well as persons who are "refugees" within the meaning of the Refugee Act of 1980, i.e., persons with a "well-founded fear of persecution" in their country of origin or, if stateless, in their country of habitual residence, on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.
Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government--Discusses the extent to which citizens have freedom of political choice and have the legal right and ability in practice to change the laws and officials that govern them; assesses whether elections are free and fair.
Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights--Discusses whether the government permits the free functioning of local human rights groups (including the right to investigate and publish their findings on alleged human rights abuses) and whether they are subject to reprisal by government or other forces. Also discusses whether the government grants access to and cooperates with outside entities (including foreign human rights organizations, international organizations, and foreign governments) interested in human rights developments in the country.
Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status--Every report contains a subheading on Women, Children, and People With Disabilities. As appropriate, some reports also include subheadings on Indigenous People, Religious Minorities, and National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities. Discrimination against groups not fitting one of the above subheadings is discussed in the introductory paragraphs of Section 5. In this section we address discrimination and abuses not discussed elsewhere in the report, focusing on laws, regulations, or state practices that are inconsistent with equal access to housing, employment, education, health care, or other governmental benefits by members of specific groups. (Abuses by government or opposition forces, such as killing, torture and other violence, or restriction of voting rights or free speech targeted against specific groups would be discussed under the appropriate preceding sections.) Societal violence against women, e.g., "dowry deaths," wife beating, rape, trafficking in women, and government tolerance of such abuse, is discussed in this section under the subheading on women. We also discuss under this subheading the extent to which the law provides for, and the government enforces, equality of economic opportunity for women. Similarly, we discuss violence or other abuse against children under that subheading. Because female genital mutilation is most often performed on children, we discuss it under that subheading.
Worker Rights -- See Appendix B.
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