Washington, DC – Congressman Howard L. Berman (D-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued the following statement in response to the release today of the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:

“A report such as this one that covers the globe is a useful tool, but under the Bush Administration, the issue of human rights has practically fallen off the map.  While it is gratifying that the State Department continues to meet its legal obligation to complete these annual surveys, our country should live up to its long-held values and do much, much more. 

“At the State Department itself, a key leadership post has gone empty for more than eight months: The Human Rights Bureau has been without an assistant secretary. How can we help promote human rights around the globe if we refuse to take a place at the table, or even to put the right person behind a desk?

“I also doubt that many of the words in these very reports will be translated into action in the coming months.  The Bush Administration has scaled back its advocacy for human rights and political reform in country after country – most notably and obviously of late in Egypt.  We have been equally quiescent in the face of abuses of the judicial system in Pakistan by that country’s leadership.  And within these pages are shocking accounts of inhumane treatment of prisoners in countries to which we have been known to send detainees under the rubric of ‘rendition’ in the struggle against terrorism. We as a nation should be leading the charge against the practices spelled out in painstaking detail in this report – not, by omission, tacitly endorsing them.”