Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2003
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 25, 2004

The expansion of democracy and respect for human rights throughout the world is at the core of U.S. foreign policy. The yearly release of the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices is an occasion to assess the state of human freedom around the world and the challenges faced by those seeking to improve it.

Putting together the Country Reports is a multi-stage process. Throughout the year, our embassies collect the data contained in it through their contact with human rights organizations, public advocates for victims, and others fighting for human freedom in every country and every region of the world. Investigating and verifying the information requires additional contacts, particularly with governmental authorities. Such inquiries reinforce the high priority we place on raising the profile of human rights in our bilateral relationships and putting governments on notice that we take such matters seriously. Compiling the data into a single, unified document allows us to gauge the progress that is being made. The public release of the Country Reports sharpens our ability to publicize violations and advocate on behalf of victims. And submission of the reports to the Congress caps our year-round sharing of information and collaboration on strategies and programs to remedy human rights abuses - and puts us on the path to future progress.

We have found that reporting on human rights is useful not only for addressing violations by governments in power, but also for the recovery and reconstruction of societies where a repressive regime has departed the scene. We learned this in the early 1990s as we assisted the new governments emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe. Today, we are helping the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, long oppressed by despotic leaders, to establish the rule of law, guarantee basic freedoms, and build democratic institutions. Our experience of monitoring human rights abuses in those and other countries has given us a richer understanding of the challenges faced by peoples struggling for democracy and human rights. Decades of reporting violations and voicing concerns signal our continued commitment to fulfill the promise of freedom for ourselves and for the world around us.

With confidence that we have upheld our high standards of accuracy and comprehensiveness, which have made past breakthroughs possible and future gains within our grasp, I am pleased to submit the Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003 to the U.S. Congress.

Colin L. Powell, Secretary of State