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various political objectives of the Administration. In these instances, the Reports generally suffer from improper
emphasis, selective omissions or distortions rather than
outright factual misstatements. Several examples may help to better illustrate these shortcomings.
Some of the country reports minimize human rights abuses by emphasizing historical problems. The Report on Pakistan, for example, suggests that present abuses are an outgrowth of Pakistan's historical "search for its national identity" and notes that Pakistan has been governed by "martial law or other non-elected regimes for more than half its thirty-five years. While emphasizing Pakistan's historical instability, the Report also minimizes both the breakdown of the rule of law in Pakistan in the last five years and the institutionalization of one man rule by President Zia-ul-Haq. Thus, the greatly expanded role of summary military courts is described only as a means to "relieve the backlog of cases in the civil courts.' The resignation of five Supreme Court judges following a decree requiring an oath to uphold President Zia's assumption of virtually unlimited constitutional power is trivialized in the Report as "what to some justices seemed to be an unconstitutional oath of allegience
In general the
Report accurately describes the denial of some human rights protections in Pakistan, but does so in a piecemeal fashion, apparently seeking to avoid the inescapable conclusion that President Zia is the main force behind these disturbing actions.
The report on Pakistan also understates the significance of several new decrees that were promulgated in 1982. For example, it inaccurately implies that Martial Law Regulation No. 54 of September 1982 applies only to cases of subversion. In fact, the Regulation declares unlawful "any act [done] with intent to impair the efficiency or impede the working of, or to cause damage to" any property or "any offence liable to cause insecurity, fear or despondency amongst the public." Violation of the regulation is punishable by death, life imprisonment, up to 14 years of "rigorous imprisonment," flogging, and forfeiture
of property. There is no judicial review of a judgment in
Another example of this type of reporting is found in the Country Report's discussion of the position of women in Pakistan. The Report tells of one women's group's opposition to a proposed new federal law of evidence "which they claimed would impose on women and men equal obligations without affording women equal rights." [Emphasis added.]
report did not indicate that the proposed rule accords
women's testimony one-half the weight of men's.
In some instances, an apparent unwillingness to attribute responsibility for human rights abuses to countries that are friendly to the U.S. results in incomplete and distorted reporting. In describing the ongoing pattern of
violence in the Philippines, for example, the State Department notes that it is difficult to assess responsibility for extra-judicial executions. The Report suggests that insurgents, vigilante groups, extremist religious sects, common criminals including "some with possible connection
to government units or insurgents" are responsible for the killings. The report fails to state clearly, as it should, that there is considerable evidence linking government armed forces to many of these killings, including a number of specific cases detailed by Amnesty International in its September 1982 Report.
The State Department Report asserts that many of the killings are the result of "numerous clashes between armed rebels and government forces
Amnesty International concludes "in a high proportion of
cases, killing occurred after interrogation and torture or
after the victim had been taken to a place of detention, indicating that death occurred after the victim had been taken into some form of custody."
To demonstrate progress in the Philippines, the Report makes a number of assertions that are only partially accurate. It states, for example, that in 1982 "controls on the press were further relaxed." While the report mentions the closing of We Forum, an independent newspaper, it does so without mentioning its history of criticizing the government, or the fact that fourteen of its staff members, columnists and executives were arrested and detained for alleged subversive activities. While all fourteen were released in December, criminal charges now are pending against them.
In some instances human rights abuses are
acknowledged by the State Department but are dismissed as symptoms of poverty and inefficiency.
Thus the Zaire report describes prison conditions as poor but notes that President Mobutu took "personal steps" to facilitate the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross, while "lower-level officials continued to respond slowly to instructions from the ministerial level to cooperate."
According to the
Report, efforts to cooperate with international human rights
organizations were taken "at the highest levels of government," but "not all local and lower-level officials have been sufficiently educated about the rights of prisoners." Similarly, in describing the deficiencies in
Zaire's judicial proceedings the Report stresses that judges are "poorly paid," court officials are underpaid or "irregularly paid" and that corruption is "common. silent as to whether high officials of the government are doing anything to address these problems.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FUTURE CONGRESSIONAL INVOLVEMENT
We believe that Congress and this Subcommittee in
particular can strengthen the reporting process by encouraging the State department to develop a more accurate and uniform method of preparing the Country reports. The reporting process would benefit from improvements both at the embassy level and in the State Department in Washington.
Within each embassy, the reporting function should be clearly assigned. Embassy officials charged with this responsibilty should receive training on the preparation of country reports and on basic human rights principals. personnel should not limit their information-gathering to discussions with diplomats, reporters or government officials,