Ethiopia: US Top Diplomat Misses Annual Human Rights Presentation

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson skips annual U.S. human rights presentation, while possible budget cuts to foreign aid faces bipartisan opposition in Congress. (Photo: © Greg Nash/The Hill)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: March 4th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — The new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson failed to attend the State Department’s yearly release of its human rights report on Friday drawing condemnation from lawmakers and activists alike.

Regarding Ethiopia the U.S. “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” highlights that “security forces used excessive force against protesters throughout the year, killing hundreds and injuring many more. The protests were mainly in Oromia and Amhara regions. At year’s end more than 10,000 persons were believed still to be detained. This included persons detained under the government-declared state of emergency, effective October 8. Many were never brought before a court, provided access to legal counsel, or formally charged with a crime.” The report adds: “The most significant human rights problems were security forces’ use of excessive force and arbitrary arrest in response to the protests, politically motivated prosecutions, and continued restrictions on activities of civil society and NGOs…Impunity was a problem. The government generally did not take steps to prosecute or otherwise punish officials who committed abuses other than corruption.”

For his absence the top U.S. Diplomat “drew fire from some members of Congress and advocates who said his decision not to personally unveil the report suggested the Trump administration places a low priority on advancing human rights,” The Washington Post reported. Human Rights Watch Washington Director, Sarah Margon, adds that Tillerson’s non-involvement “makes it much easier for other governments to ignore its findings.”

Meanwhile, in a related story, U.S. lawmakers from both parties say any proposal to cut funding for the State Department and foreign aid will not see the day of light in Congress. “It’s dead on arrival,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview with NBC. “It’s not gonna happen. It would be a disaster.”

“If you take soft power off the table then you’re never going to win the war,” Graham continued in the NBC interview. “What’s most disturbing about the cut in the State Department’s budget is it shows a lack of understanding of what it takes to win the war.”

New York Senator and Minority Leader Charles Schumer added: “Democrats and Republicans are both going to run away,” from the Trump budget proposal. “His proposals are falling apart everywhere,” Schumer said.

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