Human Rights:

State Department's Commitment to Accurate Reporting Has Increased

NSIAD-90-224: Published: Sep 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 29, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's processes and procedures for preparing its annual country reports on human rights practices.

GAO found that: (1) human rights observers agreed that the human rights report had improved in overall quality and accuracy; (2) the report was more objective and less frequently understated abuses to reflect U.S. political support for allied and friendly countries and groups; (3) State established guidelines detailing a standard format and defining what types of activities should be reported to ensure consistent and comparable human rights reporting; (4) at the nine embassies GAO visited, human rights were a high priority; (5) State reviewed overseas posts' draft reports to ensure a consensus on completeness, objectivity, and presentation; (6) State projected that it would have adequate staffing to oversee publications of the annual human rights reports when all bilateral affairs officer positions were filled; and (7) foreign service officers had experience but little formal training in human rights, and State began offering such formal training in August 1989.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a December 26, 1990 cable to posts, State directed embassies to distribute the reports to as many interested individuals and groups as possible.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should direct embassies to distribute the human rights reports on their host countries as widely as possible to individuals and groups involved in human rights issues.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In a December 26, 1990 cable, State directed embassies to expand efforts to obtain comments from a variety of human rights organizations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should solicit comments on the accuracy, objectivity, and balance of the reports' presentation from nongovernmental organizations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and regional bureaus began monitoring report review procedures to ensure compliance with coordination requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure compliance with existing report review procedures to coordinate the final draft country reports with the contributing embassies before issuance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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