The Trump administration whitewashes grave human rights violations perpetrated by favored nations, according to a new report published Wednesday.
The Aslyum Research Centre (ARC) released "A Comparative Analysis of U.S. Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices," which details "serious omissions of human rights issues and inadequately substantiated reports of improvements in the U.S. State Department's country reports."
"We are concerned that these omissions have the effect of denying the existence of rights or abuses and may result in certain types of asylum claims being dismissed."
—Liz Williams, ARC
ARC compared the State Department's assessment of the human rights situation in five countries—Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Sudan—in 2016, the last year of the Obama administration, with the reports published during the first three years of President Donald Trump's administration.
The ARC report provides insight into the Trump administration's flagrant disregard for human rights around the world. However, it also lacks broader context in terms of U.S. foreign policy.
First, the report fails to take into account the fact that under every presidential administration the U.S. has perpetrated, supported, and ignored serious human rights violations around the world, including genocide, terrorism, apartheid, drug trafficking, and severe repression.
Second, in comparing the Trump and Obama administrations, the report fails to note that the latter also supported or ignored slavery, brutal dictatorships, state repression, ethnic cleansing, and even the conscription of child soldiers in two of the five countries listed in the report—a dubious precedent continued under Trump.
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Still, the ARC report offers an incisive look at the specific types of human rights abuses the Trump administration—which has also rolled back civil, political, and human rights for women, minorities, refugees, LGBTQ people, and others in the United States—is willing to ignore.
Critics say that by downplaying these abuses abroad, the administration is laying the groundwork to deny victims aslyum in the U.S.
"We are concerned that these omissions have the effect of denying the existence of rights or abuses and may result in certain types of asylum claims being dismissed if the U.S. Department of State reports are relied upon in isolation," said ARC co-director Liz Williams in an introduction to the report.
Kate Jastram, director of policy and advocacy at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, said in the report's introduction that it "documents what we unfortunately know to be true—that the Trump administration is using all the tools at its disposal to undermine our asylum system."
"Asylum officers and immigration judges rely on these reports to make life-and-death decisions," added Jastram. "ARC's careful analysis demonstrates how the reports have been distorted, particularly downplaying women's rights and LGBTQ rights. It's another shocking example of how cynical the administration has been in undermining due process and basic fairness in asylum adjudication."