Remarks on the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003

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[The following are excerpts of the speech presented to Congress in Washington, D.C., February 25, 2004.]

It is my pleasure to present the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the Year 2003. These congressionally mandated reports reflect the deep dedication of the United States to the cause of freedom worldwide. [The complete State Department's Country Report on Human Rights Practices is available at the following web site http://www.state.gov/g/drl/hr/c1470.htm.

As President Bush put it in his State of the Union Message in January: "Our aim is a democratic peace, a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman."

A world in which human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and defended is a world of peace in which tyrants and terrorists cannot thrive. President Bush regards the defense and advancement of human rights as America's special calling, and he has made the promotion of human rights an integral and active part of his foreign policy agenda. That is why the annual Country Reports are more than a valuable informational tool, they are a vital policy instrument. The Country Reports help us to identify and close gaps between principles and practices, between internationally agreed human rights standards and the actual enjoyment of such rights by a country's citizens. The United States is strongly committed to working with other governments and civil society around the world to expose and end existing human rights violations, and to foster the legal and democratic reforms that can prevent further violations from occurring.

We have done our utmost to ensure that these Country Reports are accurate and objective. We trust that they will provide as useful set of a information to other governments as they do for our own government. And we hope that they will further the cause of courageous men and women across the globe who work for human rights and democratic freedoms within their own countries and throughout the international community. The past year saw important strides for human rights and democratic freedoms. I will cite only a few. When last year's Country Reports were issued, United States (U.S.) forces and our coalition partners were fighting in Iraq against an outlaw regime which had flouted twelve years of United Nations Security Council resolutions, not least of all resolutions on human rights. Today, Iraq no longer threatens international peace and security. Saddam Hussein's torture chambers have been put out of business. Mass graves no longer await his victims.

And we are working intensively with our coalition partners and the United Nations to help the Iraqi people achieve a united, stable country, and move toward democracy and prosperity under a representative government that respects the rights of all of its citizens. …