Overview and Acknowledgements

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

Why the Reports Are Prepared

This report is submitted to the Congress by the Department of State in compliance with Section 665 of P.L. 107-228, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003, and Sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA), as amended. The law provides that the Secretary of State shall transmit to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate by February 25 "a full and complete report regarding the status of internationally recognized human rights, within the meaning of subsection (A) in countries that receive assistance under this part, and (B) in all other foreign countries which are members of the United Nations and which are not otherwise the subject of a human rights report under this Act." We have also included reports on several countries that do not fall into the categories established by these statutes and that thus are not covered by the congressional requirement.

The responsibility of the United States to speak out on behalf of international human rights standards was formalized in the early 1970s. In 1976 Congress enacted legislation creating a Coordinator of Human Rights in the Department of State, a position later upgraded to Assistant Secretary. In 1994 the Congress created a position of Senior Advisor for Women's Rights. Congress has also written into law formal requirements that U.S. foreign and trade policy take into account countries' human rights and worker rights performance and that country reports be submitted to the Congress on an annual basis. The first reports, in 1977, covered only the 82 countries receiving U.S. aid; this year 196 reports are submitted.

How the Reports Are Prepared

In August 1993, the Secretary of State moved to strengthen further the human rights efforts of our embassies. All sections in each embassy were asked to contribute information and to corroborate reports of human rights violations, and new efforts were made to link mission programming to the advancement of human rights and democracy. In 1994 the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs was reorganized and renamed as the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, reflecting both a broader sweep and a more focused approach to the interlocking issues of human rights, worker rights and democracy. The 2003 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices reflect a year of dedicated effort by hundreds of State Department, Foreign Service and other U.S. Government employees.

Our embassies, which prepared the initial drafts of the reports, gathered information throughout the year from a variety of sources across the political spectrum, including government officials, jurists, armed forces sources, journalists, human rights monitors, academics, and labor activists. This information-gathering can be hazardous, and U.S. Foreign Service Officers regularly go to great lengths, under trying and sometimes dangerous conditions, to investigate reports of human rights abuse, monitor elections and come to the aid of individuals at risk, such as political dissidents and human rights defenders whose rights are threatened by their governments.

After the embassies completed their drafts, the texts were sent to Washington for careful review by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in cooperation with other State Department offices. As they worked to corroborate, analyze and edit the reports, the Department officers drew on their own sources of information. These included reports provided by U.S. and other human rights groups, foreign government officials, representatives from the United Nations and other international and regional organizations and institutions, experts from academia, and the media. Officers also consulted with experts on worker rights issues, refugee issues, military and police topics, women's issues and legal matters. The guiding principle was to ensure that all relevant information was assessed as objectively, thoroughly and fairly as possible.

The reports in this volume will be used as a resource for shaping policy, conducting diplomacy and making assistance, training and other resource allocations. They also will serve as a basis for the U.S. Government's cooperation with private groups to promote the observance of internationally recognized human rights.

The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These rights include freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, from prolonged detention without charges, from disappearance or clandestine detention, and from other flagrant violations of the right to life, liberty and the security of the person.

Universal human rights seek to incorporate respect for human dignity into the processes of government and law. All persons have the inalienable right to change their government by peaceful means and to enjoy basic freedoms, such as freedom of expression, association, assembly, movement and religion, without discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin or sex. The right to join a free trade union is a necessary condition of a free society and economy. Thus the reports assess key internationally recognized worker rights, including the right of association, the right to organize and bargain collectively, prohibition of forced or compulsory labor, the status of child labor practices and the minimum age for employment of children, and acceptable work conditions.

Within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, the editorial staff of the Country Reports Team consists of: Editor in Chief - Cynthia R. Bunton; Deputy Editor-in-Chief - LeRoy G. Potts; Senior Advisors - Michael G. Kozak and Elizabeth Dugan; Senior Editors - Dan Dolan, Julie Eadeh, Ann Marie Jackson, Kimber Shearer, Donald E. Parker and Jennifer M. Pekkinen; Editors - Norman Antokol, Jared Banks, AJ Bhatt, Jonathan Bemis, Stuart Crampton, Frank B. Crump, Cortney Dell, Steven Eisenbraun, Joan Garner, Solange Garvey, Jerome Hoganson, Stan Ifshin, Kari Johnstone, Leonel Miranda, Sandra J. Murphy, Gary V. Price, Ereni Roess, Rebecca A. Schwalbach, Ross Taggart, and James C. Todd; Assistant Editors - Ken Audroue, David Abramson, Jeannette Davis, Patricia A. Davis, Jean Gardner, Jean M. Geran, Robert Hagen, Patrick Harvey, Nancy M. Hewett, Victor Huser, Robert P. Jackson, Jeffrey M. Jamison, Naveen Jawaid, Joanna Levison, Janet L. Mayland, Joannella Morales, Peter Mulrean, Michael Orona, Susan O'Sullivan, Sarah Fox Ozkan, Richard J. Patard, Wendy B. Silverman, Danika Walters, Arlen Wilson, Paul Yeskoo, and David Young; Editorial Assistants - Lena Auerbach, Diana Barnes, Judith R. Baroody, Jarrett Basedow, Kent Brokenshire, Sally I. Buikema, Carol G. Finerty, Karen Gilbride, and Sasha Ross; Technical Support - Mitchell R. Brown, Linda C. Hayes, Junk Mancharee, Alonzo Simmons and Tanika N. Willis.