Critics Hear Political Tone as Pompeo Calls Out Diplomatic Rivals Over Human Rights

In Turkey, the report found, political dissidents were “disappeared” or victims of attempted kidnappings. In several cases, ethnic Kurds reported being tortured by security forces. In its defense, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey cited a policy of “zero tolerance” for torture.

In North Korea, numerous prisoners have said they were tortured, including by severe beatings, electric shock and prolonged exposure to heat or cold. And in Russia, journalists and political dissidents who published information that was not approved by the government of President Vladimir V. Putin were routinely fined under a new law prohibiting so-called fake news.

“I consider it a missed opportunity to focus only on U.S. adversaries and not underscore the universality of human rights obligations for all nations,” said Uzra Zeya, who oversaw the annual report’s research and release as an acting assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration.

She said the cases Mr. Pompeo cited in China, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela “were certainly legitimate.”

“But it’s the focus — only on those examples, without suggesting concerns elsewhere — that I think undercuts the message,” Ms. Zeya said.

Critics also noted that the report’s shifting language — on the recognition of Palestinian territories in the section about Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as its diversion from protecting sexual identity and women’s reproductive rights — as a signal of political influence in the document’s conclusions. (It did, however, condemn forced abortions in North Korea, as well as the persecution of gay people in Russia.)

Additionally, the report found evidence of systematic corruption and human rights abuses in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras — where the Trump administration is trying to return migrants who cross the southwestern border in search of asylum.

Joanne Lin of Amnesty International said that was an example of a foreign policy that leaves “people in dangerous and deadly conditions around the world with no help from the White House.”


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