from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Why Is Obama’s Human Rights Report 115 Days Late?

June 16, 2015

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By law, the State Department is required to release reports on the human rights situation in every country on February 25 of each year. Those voluminous reports are often a bit late, by a few days or a few weeks. In the George W. Bush years, a delay of a few days or a week was as I recall it common.

But the reports this year are now 115 days late and counting. Sen. Ted Cruz is proposing to fine the State Department, ie dock its budget, for every day of further delay, to force action. Why the delay? The Department says Secretary Kerry must preside over the release, to elevate the reports. Here’s the quote: "“The Secretary’s participation in the rollout, even if it must be delayed by his travel, elevates the report. The Secretary has needed to travel abroad for extended periods, often on short notice, during the past three months to address a variety of pressing foreign policy concerns.”

Sounds lame to me: Kerry has not had 15 minutes between February 25 and today to do this (even before his biking accident)? Come on. A list of all the unimportant or even nonsensical events over which Kerry has presided since February 25th would be as long as your arm.

Persons with a more suspicious (or perhaps more realistic) bent of mind have a different explanation: Iran. That is, the Obama administration does not wish to make public an honest report on human rights abuses in Iran before the nuclear deal is done. The continuing delay makes that explanation more and more persuasive.

The argument that this is so important to Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry that Kerry and only Kerry must preside strikes me as nonsense. Neither man has paid much attention to human rights while in office, human rights budgets are declining, and human rights advocates write constantly about the diminishing U.S. interest in the subject. In fact the reports speak for themselves and any high State Department official could preside over a little ceremony releasing them. If the topic were so important to Secretary Kerry he would not be delaying the release by just short of four months. He could ask National Security Adviser Susan Rice over to dress up the press conference, or Joe Biden. Or let the Deputy Secretary of State do it, noting that the bicycle accident removed Kerry from the scene.

There are two likely explanations for the delay and they are not inconsistent. The administration (a) isn’t all that interested in the reports except (b) to the extent that they could be used against the Iran deal, by reminding people in Congress of the nature of the evil regime in Tehran. So, here we are: the longest delay in releasing the human rights reports ever, and by very far. Who said the Obama administration wasn’t making history?

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