The year just ended was characterized by three trends:
* A growing worldwide demand for greater personal and political freedom
* Governmental efforts to push back on those freedoms
* Further confirmation that human rights flourish best in participatory democracies with vibrant civil societies
These congressionally mandated reports describe the performance in 2008 of governments across the globe in putting into practice their international commitments on human rights. We hope that they will help focus attention on human rights abuses and bring action to end them. At the same time, we hope that the hard-won advances for human freedom chronicled in the reports will hearten those still pressing for their rights, often against daunting odds.
These reports will inform U.S. government (USG) policy making and serve as a reference for:
* Other governments
* Intergovernmental institutions
* Non-governmental organizations
* Human rights defenders
United States foreign policy revolves not only around effective defense, but also robust diplomacy and vigorous support for political and economic development. A vigorous human rights policy reaffirms American values and advances our national interests. As President Obama stated in his Inaugural Address:
America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity; but to those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
Since the days of our own nation's founding, we have endeavored to correct injustices and fully promote respect for fundamental freedoms for all of our citizens. These efforts have been spurred and sustained by an accountable, democratic system of government; the rule of law; a vibrant free media; and, most important of all, the civic activism of our citizenry.
As we publish these reports, the Department of State (DOS) remains mindful of both domestic and international scrutiny of the United States' record. As President Obama recently made clear, "We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." We do not consider views about our performance voiced by others in the international community--whether by other governments or non-governmental actors--to be interference in our internal affairs, nor should other governments regard expressions about their performance as such. We and all other sovereign nations have international obligations to respect the universal human rights and freedoms of our citizens, and it is the responsibility of others to speak out when they believe those obligations are not being fulfilled.
The USG will continue to hear and reply forthrightly to concerns about our own practices. We will continue to submit reports to international bodies in accordance with our obligations under various human rights treaties to which we are a party. United States laws, policies, and practices have evolved considerably in recent years and will continue to do so. For example, on January 22, 2009, President Obama signed three executive orders to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo and review USG policies on detention and interrogation.
We drew the information contained in these reports from governments and multilateral institutions; from national and international non-governmental groups; and from academics, jurists, religious groups, and the media. The reports have gone through a lengthy process of fact checking to ensure high standards of accuracy and objectivity. Each country report speaks for itself. However, some broad, cross-cutting observations can be drawn.
In 2008, push back against demands for greater personal and political freedom continued in many countries across the globe. …