Human Rights: State Department's Commitment to Accurate Reporting Has Increased

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-09-26.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                    -,._.-.--I   ---- lJnit.ed
                                         -       States   General   Accounting   Off&

                                     Report; to the Chairman, Legislation
GAO -                                and Nabonal Security Subcommittee,
                                     Commit,tee on Government Operations,
                                     House of Representatives

                                     HUMAN RIGHTS
                                     State Department’s
                                     Commitment to
                                     Accurate Reporting
                                     Has Increased


                           BESTRICTED--      Nottobe          &U&AS&I&e
                           General Accounting Office unless specifically

                           approved by the OfTice of Congressional

,---   --..-I-.-.-..__-.l-   --I.--   ---I-------.---
National Security and
International Affhirs Division


September 26,1996

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
Chairman, Subcommittee on Legislation
  and National Security
Committee on Government Operations
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Chairman:

At your request, we examined the processes and procedures the Department of State uses in
preparing its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. We also reviewed staffing
in State’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and State’s training for foreign
service officers in human rights.

As arranged with your office, unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no
further distribution of this report for 30 days. At that time we will send copies to the
Secretary of State, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and other
interested parties. Copies will also be made available to others upon request.

If you or your staff have further questions concerning this report, I can be reached on (202)
2’76-4128. GAO staff members who made major contributions to the report are listed in
appendix I.

Sincerely yours,

Joseph E. Kelley            Y
Director, Security and International
  Relations Issues
Executive Summary

                       The Chairman, Legislation and National Security Subcommittee, House
Purpose                Committee on Government Operations, requested that GAO review the
                       State Department’s policies and procedures for preparing the annual
                       Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (hereafter referred to as
                       the human rights report). Specifically, GAO assessed

                   . the effectiveness of State’s methodology for ensuring that its human
                     rights report is comprehensive, accurate, and consistent;
                   . the extent to which State’s procedures ensure an unbiased human rights
                     report, regardless of whether the country is a U.S. adversary or ally;
                   l the adequacy of the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs’
                     resources and expertise for analyzing information from posts and pre-
                     paring the annual human rights report;
                   l the existence of career-enhancing incentives and rewards to attract For-
                     eign Service officers to State’s Bureau of Human Rights and Humanita-
                     rian Affairs; and
                   . the adequacy of training in human rights issues.

                       The State Department is required to report annually to the Congress its
Background             assessment of human rights practices in selected countries. The human
                       rights report for 1989 was a compendium of individual reports on
                       human rights practices in 169 countries, including recipients of U.S. aid
                       and members of the United Nations. The human rights report is widely
                       used by Congress, human rights groups, and individuals.

                       State has demonstrated an increased commitment to ensuring that the
Results in Brief       human rights report is complete and accurate. Human rights observers
                       scrutinize the report carefully and have identified weaknesses in indi-
                       vidual country reports’ data and presentation. However, these observers
                       generally agreed that the human rights report is increasingly accurate
                       and objective and less frequently understates abuses to reflect US.
                       political support for allied and friendly countries and groups.

                       State has developed guidelines that standardized the format and content
                       of individual country reports and instituted review procedures to ensure
                       objectivity. Human rights officers GAO interviewed said the guidelines
                       provided adequate instructions for report preparation. Review proce-
                       dures have not always been followed. As a result, the human rights
                       report has included factual errors that could have been corrected.

                       Page 2                                         GAO/NSIAIMO-224 bman Rights

                                 The Bureau of Human Rights appears to have adequate staff to oversee
                                 the preparation and publication of the report. The Bureau has had
                                 trouble attracting Foreign Service officers in the past, but at the end of
                                 our review it was fully staffed. Foreign Service officers have had little
                                 formal training in human rights issues. In August 1989, State began
                                 offering a one-day elective training course in human rights monitoring
                                 to provide an overview of human rights issues and reporting practices.
                                 In June 1990, human rights reporting was incorporated into mandatory
                                 training for new political officers.

Principal Findings

Human Rights Report Has          In the past, the human rights report was criticized for understating
Improved in Quality and          allies’ abuses to further U.S. geopolitical objectives. However, human
                                 rights observers GAO interviewed agreed that the human rights report
Accuracy                         overall has improved in quality and accuracy. These groups’ criticism is
                                 now generally limited to a few countries and/or specific abuse cases.
                                 Although comments from international human rights observers are
                                 credited with improving State’s human rights report, GAO found that in
                                 five of the countries visited, local human rights observers were not
                                 aware of the report, so they could not offer comments on its presenta-
                                 tion or accuracy.

State’s Guidelines Ensu,re   a   State has taken steps to ensure consistent and comparable human rights
Comparable and More              reporting by establishing guidelines detailing a standard format and
                                 defining what types of activities should be reported. The guidelines are
Objective Report                 based on internationally recognized human rights and provide criteria
                                 against which the Department measures human rights practices, Human
                                 rights officials at all nine posts GAO visited-Guatemala,    Indonesia,
                                 Israel, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey,
                                 Yugoslavia, and Zaire- said the guidance provides adequate instruction
                                 on the reporting format and on the events and issues to monitor. How-
                                 ever, ambiguities in the guidelines, such as lack of clarity on how to
                                 report year-end or cross-border incidents, have led to omissions in indi-
                                 vidual country reports.

                                 Page 3                                         GAO/NSIAL)-W-224HumanRighta
                          Executive Sumnuuy

Human Rights High         At the nine countries GAO visited, embassy officials said that human
Priority at Embassies     rights is a high priority of the post. Each overseas post appoints an
                          officer to carry out human rights functions-usually      a junior or mid-
Visited                   level Foreign Service officer in the political section. The officers at the
                          posts GAO visited spent between 5 and 75 percent of their time on human
                          rights. Other embassy officers also take part in human rights activities.

                          Posts use a variety of sources, including human rights groups, govern-
                          ment sources, and the news media, to gather human rights information.
                          They routinely encounter obstacles in obtaining sound data, such as a
                          lack of readily available means to verify or corroborate information on
                          abuses. State officials told GAO that constraints on staff time and travel
                          also impeded their efforts.

Review ProcessEnsures     The regional bureaus, the Bureau of Human Rights, and others in
Consensus                 Washington review the overseas posts’ draft human rights reports to
                          ensure a State Department-wide consensus on completeness, objectivity,
                          and presentation. In 3 of the 11 draft reports GAO reviewed in detail,
                          embassy drafts which tended to excuse abuses by friendly governments
                          were rewritten during the review.

                          Bureau officials told GAO they rely on regional bureaus to ensure compli-
                          ance with the review procedure of sending the final individual draft of
                          the human rights reports to the embassies for review. However, the
                          review procedure is not always followed. Department officials knew
                          that in a dozen instances embassies had not reviewed the final draft of
                          the 1989 country report. This neglect has resulted in factual errors. For
                          the 1990 annual report cycle, the Bureau intends to monitor the dates
                          the regional bureaus send draft reports to the embassies.

Human Rights Bureau Has   Bureau officials told GAO that current staffing is adequate to oversee
Adequate Staff            publication of the annual human rights report when all bilateral affairs
                          officer positions are filled. The Bureau has six Foreign Service bilateral
                          affairs officers to monitor the human rights situations in countries
                          around the world and review the posts’ draft country reports. The
                          Bureau also employs five retired Foreign Service officers on a tempo-
                          rary basis to serve as editors on the annual human rights report.

                          The Bureau has had trouble attracting Foreign Service officers because
                          they perceive that assignments to functional bureaus are less career-
                          enhancing than assignments in regional bureaus. In recognition of this

                          Page 4                                          GAO/NSIAb!M-224 Human Bights
                          Executive Summary

                          perception, State offers two incentives for service in hard-to-fill jobs in
                          functional bureaus: an additional year in Washington, DC., or assign-
                          ment to a position designated for a higher ranking officer. The Bureau
                          intensified its efforts to attract Foreign Service officers in 1989 and was
                          able to fill its open positions in 1990 without using special incentives.

State’s Human Rights      State offered no formal training in human rights until August 1989. Cur-
Training Has Improved     rent training involves two one-day courses: (1) training in human rights
                          issues and reporting included in mandatory political training for junior
                          political officers and (2) a course for country desk officers who will be
                          coordinating the Department’s review of the country submissions.
                          Although individual officers in the countries GAO visited had previous
                          experience in human rights reporting or departmental review of the
                          country reports, none had any formal training in human rights issues
                          and reporting.

                          GAO recommends that the Secretary of State take the following actions:
                        9 Direct embassies to (1) distribute the human rights country reports on
                          their host countries as widely as possible to individuals and groups
                          involved in human rights issues and (2) solicit comments on the accu-
                          racy, objectivity, and balance of the report’s presentation from non-
                          governmental organizations.
                        . Ensure compliance with existing report review procedures to coordinate
                          the final draft country reports with the contributing embassies before

                          As requested, GAO did not obtain written agency comments on this
Agency Comments           report; however, the views of responsible agency officials were sought
                          during the course of our work.

                          Page 6                                          GAO/NSIADBO-224Human Rights

Executive Summary
Chapter 1
Introduction              Annual Report Describes Human Rights Practices in 169
                          Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

Chapter 2                                                                                          12
Quality and Accuracy      Human Rights Organizations Encourage Improvements in
of Human Rights           Observers Allege Human Rights Reports Reflected                          14
Reporting Have                Bilateral Policy Objectives
Imbroved, but Some        Conclusions                                                              15
                          Recommendations                                                          16
Problems Continue
Chapter 3                                                                                          16
Reporting on Human        Reporting Guidelines Provide Consistent Format
                          Guidelines Not Always Followed
Rights Practices          Reporting Reflects Posts’ Emphasis on Human Rights                       19
Reflects State’s          Accuracy of the Human Rights Report Depends on                           20
Increased                      Quality of Year-Round Monitoring
                          Final Human Rights Report Is the Product of Multiple                     24
Commitment                     Reviews
                          Conclusions                                                              26
                          Recommendation                                                           26

Chapter 4                                                                                          27
Human Rights Bureau       Bureau of Human Rights Has Small Staff
                          Post Political Sections Are Primarily Responsible for
Is Sufficiently Staffed        Human Rights Reporting
and Training Is           Foreign Service Officers Have Experience but Little                      31
Improving                      Formal Training in Human Rights

Appendix                  Appendix I: Major Contributors to This Report                            34

Tables     *              Table 3.1: Required Format and Content for Human
                              Rights Report

                          Page 6                                          GAO/NSJAD-90-224Human ltQhta

Table 3.2: Embassies’ Primary Sources of Human Rights              22
Table 4.1: Time Spent by Human Rights Officers on                  31
    Human Rights Issues in Nine Countries


GAO        General Accounting Office

Page7                                       GAO/NSIAWO-224 Human R&hts
Chapter 1


                          The 1946 United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and
                          subsequent covenants set forth international standards of basic human
                          rights, including civil, political, social, and economic rights. U.S. human
                          rights policies focus on the civil and political rights that constitute limi-
                          tations on government actions, such as freedom from violations of the
                          person and freedom to exercise civil and political rights such as freedom
                          of speech, association, and the press. The State Department takes the
                          view that internationally accepted economic, social, and cultural
                          “rights” are goals for governments to work toward rather than current
                          obligations to individuals.

                          Since the early 197Os, the Congress has directed that support for human
                          rights be a goal of U.S. foreign policy. Several foreign assistance amend-
                          ments have tied U.S. aid to respect for human rights, To provide an
                          advocate for human rights concerns in foreign policy, the Congress
                          established’ the position of Assistant Secretary of State for Human
                          Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. The Assistant Secretary is responsible

                      . gathering information and preparing statements and reports to the Con-
                        gress on the observance of and respect for internationally recognized
                        human rights in all countries that receive US. aid,
                      . making recommendations to the Secretary of State and the Adminis-
                        trator of the Agency for International Development regarding compli-
                        ance with aid restrictions on countries determined to be gross violators
                        of human rights, and
                      l promoting increased observance of internationally recognized human
                        rights in all countries.

                          To assist the Assistant Secretary in carrying out these responsibilities,
                          the State Department established the Bureau of Human Rights and
                          Humanitarian Affairs (hereafter called the Bureau of Human Rights).

                          The Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
Annual Report             coordinates the preparation of an annual report on the human rights
Describes Human           practices of various countries. In 1989, State reported on the human
Rights Practices in 169   rights practices in countries receiving U.S. economic and military aid,
                          members of the United Nations, and other selected countries-169 coun-
Countries                 tries in all.

                          ‘Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Year 1978 (P.L. 96-lob)

                          Page 8                                                           GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Rights
                            Chapter 1

                            State’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (hereafter
                            referred to as the human rights report), is due January 31 for each pre-
                            ceding year. The human rights report was originally intended to provide
                            the Congress with information on human rights for use in making deci-
                            sions about economic and military assistance. In 1984, legislation
                            required the President to report to Congress on workers’ rights within
                            countries benefitting from certain trade preferences2 for use as the basis
                            for legal and policy determination on trade issues. State fulfills this
                            requirement by adding a discussion of workers’ rights issues to its
                            human rights report. State has also responded to congressional interest
                            in other areas of human rights. For example, in 1989, State reported on
                            governments’ tolerance of violence against women and on abuses against
                            noncombatants in armed conflict. Because the human rights report rep-
                            resents State’s official view of human rights practices in various coun-
                            tries, it has become an important source of information for interested
                            persons in and out of the U.S. government.

                            The Chairman, Legislation and National Security Subcommittee, House
Objectives, Scope,and       Committee on Government Operations, requested that we review the
Methodology                 State Department’s policies and procedures for preparing the human
                            rights report. Specifically, we assessed the following:

                        l the effectiveness of State’s methodology for ensuring that its human
                          rights report is comprehensive, accurate, and consistent;
                        . the extent to which State’s procedures ensure an unbiased report,
                          regardless of whether a country is a U.S. adversary or ally;
                        l the adequacy of the Bureau of Human Rights’ resources and expertise
                          for analyzing information from posts and preparing the human rights
                        l the existence of career-enhancing incentives and rewards to attract
                          high-quality Foreign Service officers for State’s Bureau of Human
                          Kights; and
                        . the adequacy of training in human rights issues provided to Foreign Ser-
                          vice officers.

                            We discussed these issues with and obtained records from officials in
                            the State Department’s Bureau of Human Rights, regional bureaus, and
                            personnel bureau. We also discussed State’s reporting on workers’ rights

                            “Generalized System of Preferences.

                            Page 9                                         GAO/NSIAD90-224 Human Rights
Chapter 1

with a representative of the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Interna-
tional Labor Affairs, which reviews the workers’ rights sections of the
human rights report.

To evaluate the procedures and methodology used to collect and report
information on human rights, we selected Guatemala, Israel, the
Republic of Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Turkey because of
allegations that State’s reports on these countries understated govern-
ment abuses because of other U.S. policy goals. We also visited
Indonesia, Yugoslavia, and Zaire to review specific human rights issues
in those countries and to assess the consistency of reporting from dif-
ferent regions.

While in Pakistan, we also reviewed the procedures for preparing the
human rights report on Afghanistan, where the United States does not
have an embassy. We met with U.S. officials who monitored human
rights in Afghanistan. We also reviewed message cable traffic from the
U.S. Embassy in El Salvador to assess the accuracy, completeness, and
balance of the human rights report on El Salvador. We also discussed
the report’s preparation with Washington officials.

We discussed the preparation of the human rights reports with US.
embassy officials. Because of time and resource constraints, we did not
independently collect information on human rights practices from which
to assess the accuracy and completeness of State’s human rights report.
Therefore, we sought views on the accuracy, completeness, and balance
of the human rights report from representatives of international human
rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International,
the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights, and Freedom House. Where
it was possible, we also interviewed representatives of foreign govern-
ments about the report and other human rights issues.

We examined documents related to State’s reporting on human rights
issues and preparation of the human rights report. We also reviewed the
publications of human rights observers on the human rights report. We
discussed organizational and personnel concerns in the Bureau of
Human Rights with Bureau and other State Department officials. We
also examined documentation on the Bureau’s resources, personnel, and
training. One of our evaluators attended a training course on human
rights reporting offered to Foreign Service officers to observe first hand
the nature and extent of State’s training in human rights.

Page 10                                        GAO/NSIADBO-224Human Right8
Chapter 1

Our review was conducted between July 1989 and March 1990 in accor-
dance with generally accepted government auditing standards. As
requested, we did not obtain formal agency comments on a draft of this
report. However, we discussed its contents with responsible agency

Page 11                                      GAO/NSIAD-90-224&man Rights
Quality and Accuracy of Human Rights
Reporting Have Improved, but Some
                      Human rights observers generally agree that the State Department’s
                      recent reports on the human rights practices of various countries are
                      credible and of high quality. Although these observers maintain that the
                      report reflects U.S. political considerations by its tone and understates
                      abuses by U.S. allies, they do not make these criticisms as frequently as
                      they did in previous years.

                      International human rights organizations such as Amnesty Interna-
Human Rights          tional, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, and the Lawyers Com-
Organizations         mittee for Human Rights have multiple sources of information on human
Encourage             rights abuses worldwide and can identify omissions or inconsistencies in
                      the State Department’s report. These groups have often testified before
Improvements in       Congress on the quality of State’s human rights report.
                      Human Rights Watch and the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
                      publish an annual review of the accuracy, completeness, and tone of
                      some of State’s individual country reports within the larger compilation
                      of reports on 169 countries. In 1988 they cited the country reports on
                      Chile, South Africa, Sudan, and Czechoslovakia as balanced.’ They noted
                      that the following characteristics were common to these reports:

                  . detailed accounts of specific cases,
                  l information from a variety of sources,
                  . context of events and issues,
                  . assertive conclusions on issues, and
                  l distinction between the observance of rights and their theoretical guar-
                    antee in law.

                      In contrast, the two human rights organizations asserted that State’s
                      country reports on Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, the Philippines,
                      Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia were biased to support U.S. geopolit-
                      ical interests. They described methods of reporting in these country
                      reports that in their opinions favored U.S. allies. For example, they
                      asserted that the human rights reports on these countries

                  . accepted government statements of intent, passage of legislation, or
                    launching of investigations as proof of improvement in human rights

                      ‘Critique: Review of the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988,
                      Human Rights Watch and Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, July 1989.

                      Page 12                                                        GAO/NSIADM-224 Human Rights
    Chapter 2
    Quality and Accuracy of Human Rigbta
    Reporting Have Improved, but Some
    Problems Continue

l excused violations because of a lack of resources rather than failure of
. failed to offer independent analyses and conclusion; and
l treated the same issue differently or applied different standards of evi-
  dence for different countries.

    Our review of 1987 and 1988 human rights reports2 supports this
    analysis. Past human rights reports on El Salvador, Guatemala, and the
    Philippines have excused these governments from responsibility for
    abuses based on their promises of corrective action or lack of resources.
    For example, the 1988 human rights report on the Philippines empha-
    sized the Philippine government’s intent to observe human rights,
    although abuses continued. In addition, human rights reports on
    Afghanistan focused on reports of government abuses and omitted dis-
    cussion of abuses by the U.S.-supported mujahidin.

    State officials and human rights observers have credited the work of
    international and local human rights groups with prompting State to
    improve the accuracy and completeness of its human rights report. Indi-
    vidual country reports have addressed many of the inadequacies human
    rights observers have cited. We found that in Pakistan, Guatemala, and
    Yugoslavia, for example, the U.S. embassies generally agreed with
    human rights groups’ criticisms of the presentation or emphasis of pre-
    vious human rights reports and considered their views when drafting
    their 1989 human rights reports. In Guatemala, for example, interna-
    tional human rights observers charged that State gave too much credit
    to the government for planned changes. Embassy officials agreed and in
    their 1989 human rights report emphasized violations that had occurred
    despite the government’s stated policy of respect for human rights.

    Although the international human rights organizations were familiar
    with State’s human rights report, many of the countries’ local human
    rights observers were not aware of the report. For example, in five of
    the nine countries we visited, individuals involved in local human rights
    issues were not familiar with State’s human rights reports on their coun-
    tries. In Indonesia, however, the embassy gave its 1988 report to all its
    human rights contacts to elicit criticisms and suggestions for improving
    the 1989 report.

    21J.S.Department of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1987, and U.S. Depart-
    ment of State, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988.

    Page 13                                                        GAO/NSIADQO-224Human Rights

                                Eeporthg Have Improved, but &me
                                Problems Continue

                                Bureau of Human Rights officials agreed with us that the reports for
                                individual countries should be distributed as widely as possible to local
                                human rights observers and that any criticism or concerns should be dis-
                                cussed with local human rights observers if appropriate. This would
                                improve communications with a wide range of human rights groups in
                                different countries and provide State with different perspectives on
                                human rights issues.

                                Human rights observers have charged that U.S. support for democratic
Observers Allege                or friendly governments has biased State’s human rights reports. Since
Hum      Rights       Reports   1981, State has noted in its reports the administration’s belief that dem-
Reflected Bilateral             ocratic institutions ensure the observance of human rights. Critics have
                                charged that in the early 198Os, State reported human rights violations
Policy Objectives               in Communist countries such as the Soviet Union in extremely harsh
                                language, while reporting violations in democracies such as Guatemala
                                and Israel in a more favorable tone. State’s human rights reports for El
                                Salvador, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Israel have historically been
                                criticized for minimizing government abuses to support governments
                                with close political and economic ties to the United States.

                                Human rights observers have also alleged that a country’s change to an
                                electoral democracy ensures that State’s criticism of that country’s
                                abuses will be muted in the human rights reports, even if little progress
                                is being made in observing human rights. In four of the countries we
                                visited, the human rights reports issued shortly after the change to dem-
                                ocratic government emphasized the new governments’ intent to imple-
                                ment policies of respect for human rights, even as abuses continued. For
                                example, the 1987 and 1988 human rights reports on Guatemala
                                stressed the government’s promises to improve the situation, while
                                abuses were continuing. Embassy officials agreed that the reports
                                reflected support for the new democracies in the hope that they would
                                live up to their promises.

1989 Human Rights Report        Our review of related data and conversations with embassy officials and
Generally Objective             human rights observers indicated that 10 of the 11 reports we examined
                                accurately reflected human rights practices in the countries we visited.
                                However, the report on Afghanistan for 1989 severely criticized the
                                Afghan government’s abuses of human rights, but minimized the
                  ”             mujahidin’s abuses. Heavy civilian casualties caused by mujahidin
                                shelling around two cities and other allegations of abuse by the
                                mujahidin were also not included in the 1989 report.

                                Page 14                                        GAO/NSIAMO-224 Humau Rights
                      Chapter 2
                      Repurthg Have Improved, but Some

                      The tone of the 1989 report on Guatemala changed dramatically from
                      the reports of the previous 2 years. According to embassy and State offi-
                      cials, the Department had been unwilling to criticize the new democratic
                      government too harshly in the first years of its administration. The
                      deteriorating situation in Guatemala and the Guatemalan government’s
                      failure to implement its policies to uphold human rights were among the
                      factors that led State to make its presentation of human rights abuses in
                      1989 more objective and frank.

                      International human rights groups now agree that the State Depart-
Conclusions           ment’s human rights report is generally comprehensive and objective.
                      They point out, however, that individual human rights reports on a
                      small number of countries attempt to mitigate abuses, especially if those
                      countries have close political ties to the US. government. Although the
                      criticism by international human rights organizations has encouraged
                      the State Department to make the report comparable and objective, most
                      local human rights observers in the countries we visited were not aware
                      of the human rights report. Thus, State missed an opportunity to gain
                      additional insights and perspectives on its reporting of human rights

                      We recommend that the Secretary of State 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 and
                  l solicit comments on the accuracy, objectivity, and balance of the
                    reports’ presentation from nongovernmental organizations.

                      Page 15                                        GAO/NSKAD-90-224
                                                                                    Human Rights
Reporting on HumavlRights PracticesReflects

                            In recent years, the State Department has shown a greater commitment
                            to gathering and reporting accurate and complete information on human
                            rights practices. Reporting guidelines are adequate; however, the proce-
                            dures for data collection and verification are left to the judgment of
                            individual embassies and vary among countries. The Department’s
                            review procedures are not always followed, and as a result some reports
                            have included factual errors.

                            The Bureau of Human Rights has developed detailed reporting guide-
Reporting Guidelines        lines to make the presentation of the human rights information collected
Provide Consistent          and reported by the embassies as consistent as possible in subject,
Format                      format, and language. The guidelines define categories of human rights
                            and provide criteria against which embassies measure human rights
                            practices. According to a Bureau official, general guidelines cannot
                            address every situation in every country. Thus, the Bureau’s instruc-
                            tions allow each embassy to emphasize issues of importance in each

Guidelines Provide          State’s guidelines provide both general instructions on the approach to
Criteria for AssessiJ-vi!   human rights reporting and specific instructions on the content and
                            format of each report section. The general instructions emphasize objec-
Human Rights                tivity and accurate reporting and urge high-level management at posts
                            to take a personal interest in the reports.

                            Using internationally recognized humanitarian and labor rights stan-
                            dards as criteria against which to measure actions, embassies report on
                            abuses by governments and by nongovernmental elements, such as guer-
                            rilla forces, terrorists, or occupying forces of a foreign power. Table 3.1
                            includes the major report headings and the types of abuses embassies
                            are required to address in each section. In addition, embassies report on
                            actual practices in countries as well as protection provided to human
                            rights in laws and constitution. Although the guidelines standardize the
                            report format and headings an embassy must use, a report may empha-
                            size a particular category depending on conditions in the country.

                            Page 16                                         GAO/NSIAD-90-224H-n   Rights
                                         Chapter 3
                                         Reporting on Human Right8 Practices
                                         Reflects State’s Increased Commitment

Table 3.1: Required Format and Content
for Human Rights Report                  Report     heading               Topics included
                                         .-. _..--_I__
                                         Respect for the Integrity of     Extent of freedom from political or extrajudicial killing,
                                         the Person                       disappearance, torture, or other cruel punishment and
                                                                          arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile; denial of fair public trial;
                                                                          and arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or
                                           ..~ .- .--.___                 correspondence.
                                         Respect for Civil Liberties      Extent of freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly and
                                                                          association, and religion and movement within the country,
                                                                          foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation.
                                         Respect for Political Rights     Ability of citizens to change their government,
                                         Governmental Attitude            Extent to which the government is willing to allow discussion
                                         Regarding International and      of human rights by local and international human rights
                                         Nongovernmental                  groups. Extent to which the government is concerned with
                                         Investigation of Violations of   international human rights matters.
                                         Human Rights
                                         Discrimination Based on          Extent to which social or cultural discrimination is practices
                                         Race, Religion, Sex,             or tolerated by the government. Included discrimination in
                                         Language, or Social Status       housing, education, and jobs; special problems of ethic
                                                                          groups; and violence against women.
                                         Worker Rights                    Extent to which the right of association, the right to organize
                                                                          and bargain collectively, prohibition of forced or compulsory
                                                                          labor, minimum age for employment of children, and
                                                                          acceptable conditions or work are protected and exercised.

                                         Human rights officers who draft the individual country reports and
                                         regional bureau staff who coordinate internal departmental review
                                         stated that the Bureau’s guidance was adequate in that it described the
                                         types of human rights practices to monitor and how to report them.

                                         The guidelines do not address every issue related to worldwide
                                         reporting, however. For example, the guidelines do not address the
                                         types or number of examples needed to substantiate a conclusion.
                                         According to State officials, the review process addresses the need to be
                                         comprehensive but concise. The Department’s objective is to include
                                         major examples of continuing abuse to illustrate its conclusions, but not
                                         to provide a catalog of abuses. The 1989 report on El Salvador, for
                                         example, did not include an incident in which the Salvadoran military
                                         allegedly tortured and killed insurgent medical workers. State officials
                                         believed that the report contained enough other examples to support the
                                         report’s conclusion that the military had committed abuses.

                                         According to a State official, the embassies also try to address in detail
                                         the instances of human rights violations that have generated the most
                                         attention locally or internationally, for example, those that are particu-
                                         larly brutal, involve American citizens, or point to some area of concern
                                         in the country. For example, State reported that in El Salvador over

                                         Page 17                                                         GAO/NSIAIMO-224 Human Rights
                        chapter 8
                        I?aporting on Human Rights Practices
                        Reflecta State’s Increased Commitment

                        17 politically motivated killings were committed per month through
                        August 1989. Killings specifically addressed in the country reports illus-
                        trated continuing human rights problems, such as noncombat killings
                        attributed to the military and police and the resurgence of death squads.
                        The killing of an American citizen in March 1989 by Communist insur-
                        gents in that country was noted, as was the kidnapping and murder of a
                        schoolteacher for her union activities.

                        The instructions also do not provide guidance on reporting human rights
                        violations that occur in one country but involve another country’s citi-
                        zens. In February 1988, the assassination of a prominent Afghan citizen
                        in Peshawar, Pakistan, allegedly by the Afghan secret police or a
                        myjahidin group, was not reported in the human rights report on
                        Afghanistan but was mentioned in the Pakistan report. Human rights
                        groups charged that the incident occurred in the context of the Afghan
                        conflict and was therefore improperly reported. Bureau of Human
                        Rights officials stated that, in this case, the event should probably have
                        been discussed in both reports. One official stated, however, that treat-
                        ment of unique situations should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

                        Embassies are directed to prepare draft human rights reports and send
Guidelines Not Always   them to the Department in early October of each year so that they may
Followed                be reviewed and published in time to meet the January 31 deadline for
                        submission to Congress. According to a State official, posts may provide
                        additional information for the report as events occur in the interim, and
                        State tries to include significant events through the end of the year.
                        However, in at least one case, these instructions were not implemented,
                        resulting in the omission of a major instance of human rights abuse from
                        the human rights report. A Bureau official said that the Bureau will
                        strengthen the 1990 instructions to emphasize that significant year-end
                        events must be reported and included in the annual report.

                        According to State officials, if a significant event occurs in one calendar
                        year but does not come to the embassy’s attention until the next year,
                        the information should be included in the following year’s human rights
                        report. State may also include significant events that might happen in
                        January, after the reporting year ends. For example, State reported the
                        arrest in January 1990 of a Salvadoran Army officer for the October
                        1989 murder of six Jesuit priests.

                        However, a well-documented massacre of an Afghan garrison by the
                        mujahidin in November 1988 was not reported in either the 1988 or

                        Page 18                                          GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Rights
                     Chapter 3
                     Reporting on Human Rights Practices
                     Reflecta State’s increased Commitment

                     1989 human rights report. The official who drafted the 1988 report said
                     that he believed the event happened too late for inclusion in the report,
                     although he did not ask for any guidance from the Bureau of Human
                     Rights. The incident was not in the 1989 report, according to the official
                     drafting that report, because it happened in 1988.

                     Human rights issues compete for priority in U.S. embassies with other
Reporting Reflects   important policy issues, such as U.S. national security interests, alliance
Posts’ Emphasis on   considerations, and economic objectives. Posts give human rights issues
Human Rights         varying priority based on such factors as the extent of abuses in
                     country, the ambassador’s approach to human rights, the emphasis on
                     human rights from the regional bureaus, and the importance of US. geo-
                     political interests.

                     An ambassador sets priorities for the embassy based on instructions
                     from the Secretary of State. In eight of the nine countries we visited, the
                     posts’ annual goal statements cited human rights as a priority goal. In
                     all countries, officials told us that human rights had a high priority in
                     post activities. The ambassador to Guatemala told us that human rights
                     is one of the top three priorities for the embassy, along with support for
                     democracy and drug interdiction and eradication. Political and human
                     rights officers said that the entire embassy understands these priorities.

                     Letters of instruction to U.S. ambassadors from the Secretary of State
                     explain their responsibilities and set policy priorities. The regional
                     bureaus develop these instructions based on the situation in the country
                     and U.S. foreign policy goals. According to Bureau of Human Rights offi-
                     cials, desk officers sometimes ask them to comment on letters for ambas-
                     sadors going to countries with human rights problems.

                     In Indonesia and the Republic of Korea, the ambassadors’ letters of
                     instruction specifically mentioned human rights as a priority. Although
                     the letter of instruction to the ambassador to Guatemala was not final-
                     ized at the time of our visit, he expected human rights to be a high pri-
                     ority based on his discussions with Department officials. Human rights
                     was not specifically mentioned in the letter for the ambassador to
                     Pakistan or the Philippines. Post records did not indicate whether the
                     Bureau of Human Rights had commented on these letters.

                     Most regional bureaus stress the importance of the human rights reports
                     and urge post management to take an interest in the process. The Inter-
                     American Affairs Regional Bureau has taken an active role in pressing

                     Page 19                                         GAO/NSIAD90-224 Human Rights
                       Chapter 3
                       Reporting on Human Righta Pmcticea
                       Reflecte State%Increaeed commitment

                       for accurate and complete human rights monitoring and reporting. In
                       1989, it compiled statistics on the types and amounts of resources in the
                       region devoted to human rights monitoring, innovative methodologies
                       for data collection and verification, and frequently used sources to iden-
                       tify any weaknesses bureau-wide or country specific in its approach to
                       human rights. Officers in other regions said that they did not get addi-
                       tional guidance on reporting standards from their regional bureaus, but
                       in every region officers noted that the priority of human rights has
                       increased throughout the Department.

                       Embassies choose varying approaches in working for improvements in
                       human rights conditions. For example, the posts in Indonesia, Zaire, and
                       the Republic of Korea choose to conduct most human rights activities
                       privately due to cultural and political conditions in those countries. In
                       contrast, the ambassadors to Guatemala and Turkey have taken a public
                       stance in pressing for improvements in observance of human rights by
                       making speeches and attending human rights functions. The ambassa-
                       dors to Guatemala and Turkey have also attempted to heighten other
                       foreign embassies’ interest in human rights issues.

                       The embassies’ monitoring and reporting on human rights throughout
Accuracy of the        the year becomes the basis of the annual human rights report. If the
Human Rights Report    human rights officer has collected information throughout the year,
Dependson Quality of   then drafting the annual report consists mainly of compiling information
                       previously gathered. The human rights officer in each of the countries
Year-Round             we visited had kept extensive files of press clippings, government statis-
Monitoring             tics, and other information collected throughout the year to use in pre-
                       paring the annual country report.

                       According to officials at eight of the nine embassies we visited, embas-
                       sies report to the Department on events as they happen or in response to
                       congressional or other inquiries. A U.S. official at the U.S. Embassy in
                       Seoul told us that the annual report represents the embassy’s analysis of
                       the human rights situation as a whole. In Guatemala, however, the
                       emphasis was on trend reporting, with spot reporting supplementing
                       trend analysis. Some embassies developed analyses of particular issues
                       or groups involved in human rights. For example, the embassy in
                       Guatemala prepares a monthly human rights overview, and the Consu-
                       late General in Jerusalem prepares a bimonthly update on the situation
                       in the occupied territories.

                       Page 20                                         GAO/NSLADw)-224Human RQhta
                             Chapter 8
                             Reporting   on Human Rights Practims
                             Reflect8 State’s lncreeeed Ckmmitment

                             The extent of reporting from the countries we reviewed reflects the situ-
                             ation in a country as well as the embassy’s emphasis on human rights.
                             For example, over 600 cables came from the embassy in Tel Aviv and
                             consulate general in Jerusalem on the human rights situation in Israel
                             and the Occupied Territories, where information on abuses is widely
                             available. Conversely, less than 100 cables came from the embassy in
                             Kinshasa, Zaire, a very closed society with government control over

Data Collection              Although standardization of the report has increased its overall quality
Methodology Is Embassy       and usefulness, each embassy is responsible for ensuring that its assess-
                             ment of human rights practices in its host country is complete and accu-
Responsibility               rate. The Bureau of Human Rights’ guidelines do not address data
                             collection and verification methods. However, several posts indicated
                             that a procedures manual on data collection and verification would be
                             helpful, especially for posts experiencing staffing gaps. State intends to
                             address methodologies for collection and verification of information and
                             assessing the credibility of sources in its new training course for polit-
                             ical officers. (See ch. 4 for a discussion of human rights training.)

                             In addition, a Bureau official charged with drafting the reporting
                             instructions stated that the instructions for the 1990 report will stress
                             standards of evidence and verification of information.

Obstaclesto Monitoring       In the countries we visited, the posts consistently faced obstacles to
                             gathering accurate and complete information. For example:

                         l Few reliable sources of information or eyewitnesses were available to
                           report abuses. The posts have found it virtually impossible to investi-
                           gate abuses that occur in remote areas or areas of conflict. Further, in
                           countries such as Guatemala, the Philippines, and the Republic of Korea,
                           human rights is a political issue, and local human rights groups tend to
                           espouse definite political views. In the Philippines, one local human
                           rights group reports only on government abuses and not on those com-
                           mitted by the Communist insurgency. In countries such as Zaire where
                           the government maintains tight control over information and individ-
                           uals fear reprisals for reporting on abuses, collecting and verifying
                           information is very difficult.
                         . Staff time and resources are restricted. Embassy human rights officers
                           stated that they cannot investigate each of the myriad allegations of
                           human rights violations. For example, the U.S. embassy in the

                             Page 21                                         GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Righta
                                                 Chapter 3
                                                 Reporting on Human Rights Practices
                                                 Reflects State’e Increased Commitment

                                                 Philippines estimated that over 1,000 persons lost their lives due to the
                                                 insurgency and counterinsurgency, many in remote and unaccessible
                                                 areas. In addition, human rights officers in the countries we visited were
                                                 assigned additional duties, such as political-military affairs, narcotics,
                                                 criminal justice, and other political issues. The officers said that budg-
                                                 etary constraints kept them from visiting the provinces outside the cap-
                                                 ital as often as they would like. These constraints particularly hamper
                                                 reporting in decentralized countries, such as Yugoslavia.

Sourcesof Information                            Sources of information vary among the posts we visited in response to
                                                 the different situations in countries around the world. Each post used
                                                 several sources to get multiple views of the human rights situation.
                                                 Table 3.2 shows the embassies’ primary or frequently used sources.

Table 3.2: Embassies’ Primary Sources of Human Rights Information
                                              Host     Military/     Human rights    Media/    Trade            On-site     Religious
.- -. . -.~ ._                         government        police           groups      press   unions     investigation    community
 _ __             .__.-..-- ..-..                XB            X                X                                                   X
Guatemala                                        X             X                X         X        X                                X
Indonesia                                        X                              X         X        X                  X             X
Israel                                           X             X                X                                     X             X
Korea                                            X             X                X         X        X                  X
P&“&an                                           X             X                X
Philippines                                      X                              X         X
Turkey                                           X                              X                  X
zaire            _ -    ._~.. ~.__--             X                              X                  X                  X             X
                                                 aAfghan interim government

                                                 Other sources less frequently mentioned include discussions with polit-
                                                 ical opposition representatives, debriefings of political prisoners, and
                                                 consular visits.

                                                 The posts have tailored their data-gathering approaches to the situa-
                                                 tions in the country. For example, in Yugoslavia, the human rights
                                                 officer travels to various locations for on-site investigations and inter-
                                                 views local human rights groups, refugees, and church men and women.
                                                 In contrast, travel in Guatemala and the Philippines is restricted for
                                                 security reasons. In Israel, the free press and a number of active local
                                                 and international human rights groups provide much information on

                                                 Page 22                                               GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Rights
                           Chapter 8
                           Reporting on Human Rights Practicee
                           Befleets State’s InereaaedCommitment

                           human rights violations. Conversely, Zaire has no free press, and indi-
                           viduals are often reluctant to talk to U.S. officials for fear of govern-
                           ment reprisals. Faced with an overall lack of information sources, much
                           of the data in State’s country report on Zaire is based on general impres-
                           sions drawn from anecdotal reports.

                           Embassies in every country we visited except Zaire cited local human
                           rights groups as important sources of information. Human rights
                           officers told us that these groups serve a useful purpose in advocating
                           human rights and often have access to information not available to the
                           embassy. Information from local or international human rights groups
                           was cited in the human rights report on each of the countries we visited.

EmbassiesTry to Verify     Department officials stressed that high standards of proof must be
Information Before         maintained to ensure the accuracy of charges. Because of the difficulty
                           in verifying information, embassies use many means to assess the credi-
Reporting Abuses           bility of charges of abuse. The primary method used in each of the nine
                           countries we visited was cross-checking information with more than one
                           source. Even in Zaire, where US. officials told us information sources
                           are difficult to find, the post cross-checks information to the extent pos-
                           sible, The posts also consider the accuracy of the source over time, the
                           methodology used to gather the information, and the political purposes
                           of the information source.

                           When the embassy cannot substantiate charges of abuse, State usually
                           reports only that abuses were alleged. Nongovernmental human rights
                           groups have suggested that State uses this means of reporting to mini-
                           mize violations in particular countries, such as Guatemala and El
                           Salvador. For example, the 1988 report on Guatemala cited a massacre
                           of 22 villagers in El Aquacate, Guatemala, by unknown persons. Local
                           human rights groups accused the Guatemalan army of the killings, but
                           embassy officials did not believe the evidence was conclusive. Some
                           human rights groups asserted that the embassy refused to blame the
                           Army in an attempt to understate government involvement in abusing
                           Guatemalan citizens.

Washington Bureaus Draft   State reports on conditions in some countries, such as Angola and
SomeHuman Rights           Afghanistan, in which the United States does not have an embassy. In
                           these cases, the regional bureau’s country desk officer drafts the
Reports                    country human rights report based on information gathered from the
                           press, human rights organizations, and, in some cases, US. officials in

                           Page 23                                         GAO/NSUIMO-224 Human Rights
                        chapter a
                        Reporting on Human Rights Practlcea
                        Reflecta Stat43’aIncreased Commitment

                        other countries. For example, the Angola desk officer told us he drafted
                        the 1989 report primarily using public information, including reports
                        from Amnesty International and Africa Watch.

                        State also drafts country reports using information collected by U.S.
                        embassies in neighboring countries. For example, because the United
                        States closed its embassy in Afghanistan in early 1989, the country desk
                        officer was charged with drafting the 1989 human rights report on that
                        country. The report was based largely on information supplied by the
                        consulate at Peshawar, Pakistan.

                        State has instituted review procedures to encourage objectivity and to
Final Human Rights      ensure that the final human rights report reflects the entire Depart-
Report Is the Product   ment’s position. This review includes the regional bureau country desks,
of Multiple Reviews     the Bureau of Human Rights, and other offices. The final report is nego-
                        tiated among officials from the embassy, country desk, and the Bureau,
                        all of which must approve the final product, They must resolve any dis-
                        agreements on the tone of the report or differing professional opinions
                        on conclusions drawn from the facts.

                        Discussions on reports on El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Israel have his-
                        torically been contentious. The language and tone in the 1989 reports on
                        the Philippines, Turkey, and Israel, among others, were the subjects of
                        intense internal discussion before final agreement. Our comparison of
                        the embassies’ drafts with the final products showed that the depart-
                        mental review process had changed the tone of 3 of the 11 draft country
                        reports we reviewed, primarily by removing statements that tended to
                        excuse government abuses. In the other eight reports, changes were
                        largely editorial in nature or clarifications of issues or statistics already
                        in the report.

                        Embassies send the draft reports to the regional bureaus’ country desks
                        for coordination within the Department. At the Department, the
                        Country Team- five retired high-level Foreign Service officers who are
                        hired on a temporary basis for their expertise in the geographic areas-
                        initially performs substantive and editorial reviews. The Bureau’s bilat-
                        eral affairs officers and other Bureau officials also review the drafts to
                        ensure that all major developments are included and that conclusions
                        are factually supported. Other offices with an interest in the reports,
                        including the Office of the Legal Adviser, Legislative Affairs, and the
                        Special Assistant to the Secretary for International Labor Affairs, also
                        review the drafts. The Department of Labor’s Bureau of International

                        Page 24                                          GAO/NSIAlMO-224 Human Rights
              Chapter 3
              Reporting on Human Rights Practices
              Reflects State’s Increased Commitment

              Labor Affairs reviewed the workers’ rights section of the report for the
              last 2 years.’

              According to Bureau officials, desk officers should send the final draft
              negotiated in Washington back to the embassies for concurrence, but
              they do not always do so. These officials knew that in the 1989
              reporting cycle there were a dozen instances in which final drafts were
              not sent to the overseas posts, including those in Israel and Pakistan. In
              a few cases, this neglect resulted in errors in the final reports. For
              example, the 1989 country report on Pakistan stated that no sentences
              of stoning, flogging, or amputation levied under controversial Islamic
              ordinances2 were carried out in 1989. However, the first flogging was
              carried out in December 1989, and post officials said they could have
              corrected the statement had they seen the final draft.

              The Bureau of Human Rights has relied on the regional bureaus to
              ensure that their desk officers have sent the drafts to the embassies for
              concurrence. Bureau officials said that they plan to ask the regional
              bureaus to provide the Bureau of Human Rights the dates the final
              drafts go out for review to ensure that embassies have an opportunity to
              comment on the final reports. Bureau officials believe that they will
              then be able to identify which embassies have not been sent the final
              draft and encourage the regional bureaus to do so.

              State has shown an increasing commitment to making the human rights
Conclusions   report as factual and objective as possible by improving reporting guide-
              lines to delineate the categories of abuses to be reported and standard-
              izing the format and content of the human rights reports. The review
              process helps State ensure that the human rights report is objective and
              represents the official view of the State Department. However, embas-
              sies do not always adhere to reporting requirements, such as reporting
              on year-end events, and Department procedures for coordinating the
              report are not always followed. Adherence to reporting requirements
              and department rev.ew procedures would help to ensure the accuracy of
              the report.

              ‘The Department of Labor has notified State that due to resource constraints it will no longer be able
              to perform this advisory review.

              ‘The IIadood Ordinances on adultery, promulgated in 1979.

              Page 25                                                          GAO/NSIAD90-224 Human Rights
                 Chapter 3
                 Repwtlng on Human Right8 Practices
                 Reflect8 State’s Increased Commitment

                 We recommend that the Secretary of State ensure compliance with
Recommendation   existing report review procedures to coordinate the final draft country
                 reports with the contributing embassies before issuance.

                 Page 26                                        GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Rights
Human Rights Bureau Is Sufficiently Staffed
and Tmining Is Improving

                         The Bureau’s small staff appears sufficient to monitor embassy
                         reporting on human rights practices and the preparation of the annual
                         human rights report. The Bureau is one of State’s “functional” bureaus,
                         which means that its activities are not specific to a geographic region as
                         are those of the “regional” bureaus. Foreign Service officers’ bias
                         against serving in functional bureaus has at times hindered the Bureau’s
                         ability to attract staff, resulting in staffing gaps. However, the Bureau
                         was able to fill all its open Foreign Service positions through the regular
                         1989-90 assignment cycle.

                         Although the Bureau is the focal point for human rights issues in State,
                         each embassy is responsible for monitoring and reporting on the human
                         rights practices of its host country. Each embassy has designated one
                         officer to be responsible for human rights issues and reporting. Regional
                         bureaus also perform substantive reviews of the drafts and coordinate
                         the internal review of the reports for countries in their regions. How-
                         ever, in our interviews with Foreign Service officers who dealt with
                         human rights, we discovered that only two had taken formal training in
                         human rights issues and reporting.

                         The Bureau conducts its work with a staff of about 50 permanent
Bureau of Human          employees, including about 30 professional staff and about 20 support
Rights Has Small Staff   staff. In addition, the Bureau employed 10 temporary experts at the
                         time of our review. Professional staff working in the Bureau include the
                         assistant secretary and deputy assistant secretaries, Foreign Service
                         officers, foreign affairs officers, public affairs advisor, and special
                         assistants. The number of Foreign Service officers in the Bureau has
                         stayed constant at about 14’ since 1984, while the Bureau’s non-Foreign
                         Service professional staff has increased from 4 to about 14 positions.
                         The Bureau also hires 5 Foreign Service officers on a temporary basis
                         specifically to review and edit the draft reports from the embassies.

                         According to Bureau officials, when all Foreign Service officer positions
                         are filled, the Bureau is sufficiently staffed to oversee preparation of
                         the human rights report, although its resources are stretched thin. For
                         example, the Bureau has six bilateral affairs officers who monitor an
                         average of around 30 countries each. Bureau officials told us that it is
                         difficult for one officer to monitor so many countries in-depth. Although
                         none of these officers had special training in human rights issues before

                         ‘This excludes positions for five Foreign Service officers in the Bureau’s Asylum Unit, which has no
                         role in the preparation of the annual human rights report.

                         Page 27                                                          GAO/NC&AD-90-224
                                                                                                         Human Rights
chapter 4
Humau Rights Bureau Is Sufficiently Staffed
and Training Is Improving

being assigned to the Bureau, they are mid-level officers with overseas
experience and, according to Bureau officials, are able to learn the job
quickly. One of the six bilateral affairs officers had been a human rights
officer at an embassy before coming to the Bureau. According to the
Bureau’s personnel officer, the Bureau has not requested additional For-
eign Service positions.

The Bureau’s Foreign Service positions are interfunctional, which means
that their responsibilities involve activities typical of more than one
“cone”2 . Although most human rights officers at posts are political
officers, officers in the Bureau represented a mix of cones.

At the time of our review, the Bureau had a full complement of
14 generalist Foreign Service officers. However, the Bureau has had
problems in attracting Foreign Service officers in the past. Within the
past 6 years, 2 of the 14 positions for Foreign Service officers went
unfilled for about a year. One position remained unfilled over 2 years,
and another w;rs vacant for 8 months. We were told that the Bureau will
probably find it difficult to fill a vacancy anticipated in July 1990 since
it will occur outside the regular assignment cycle.

For the 1989-90 assignment cycle, the Bureau had six openings. It was
able to fill all six early in the assignment process: three by bids and
three by extending the assignment of officers currently serving in the
Bureau. According to a personnel official, the Bureau was successful in
filling its positions because it had mounted an aggressive campaign to
recruit Foreign Service officers and so many officers were willing to
extend their assignment to the Bureau.

According to a personnel official, the Bureau will have more vacancies
for the 1991 assignment process than it did in 1990. Officials hope that
the Department’s increased emphasis on human rights and Foreign Ser-
vice officers’ experience with human rights issues overseas will make it
easier to recruit qualified staff. One Bureau official said that several
Foreign Service officers have called to inquire about working in the

‘Foreign Service officers are assigned to four functional work areas-administrative,   consular, ecw
nomic, and political-which the State Department refers to as cones.

Page 28                                                           GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human R43ht.s
                         chapter 4
                         Humau Rights Bureau Is Sufficiently Staffed
                         and TraInLug Is Improviug

Functional Bureaus Not   According to State personnel officials, it is not unusual for Foreign Ser-
Viewed as Career         vice positions in functional bureaus such as Human Rights to be vacant
                         for long periods because more positions are available than there are For-
Enhancing                eign Service officers to fill them. Personnel in State offices and embas-
                         sies told us that Foreign Service officers generally believe that service in
                         a regional bureau, which coordinates bilateral policy and controls
                         embassy appointments, is more career enhancing than assignment to a
                         functional bureau, which focuses on a single issue. According to per-
                         sonnel officials, a tour in a functional bureau would not prevent a For-
                         eign Service officer from being promoted, but a reputation gained from
                         association with a regional office might be an advantage in getting sub-
                         sequent assignments that lead to promotions.

                         The Department did not have readily available information on whether
                         these perceptions were borne out in promotion decisions. The Depart-
                         ment conducts analyses of promotions by cones rather than current
                         assignments because promotion decisions are based on the last five
                         assignments. About 66 percent of the officers who had completed
                         assignments in the Bureau over the past 6 years have been promoted.
                         According to Bureau officials, three Bureau deputy assistant secretaries
                         have been promoted to the ambassadorial rank.

                         In recognition of the difficulty in recruiting Foreign Service officers for
                         functional bureaus, State allows them two incentives to attract staff:
                         (1) officers may stay an extra year in Washington after the usual 6
                         years to serve in a functional bureau and (2) officers may occupy a posi-
                         tion designated for a rank higher than they hold. Because the Bureau
                         attracted sufficient bids for vacancies in 1990, the positions were not
                         designated hard to fill and were not eligible for these special

Human Rights Reporting   In 1989, the Bureau proposed a State Department-wide award for
Award Under              human rights reporting, which would be similar to current awards for
                         political and economic reporting. State’s Awards Committee agreed that
Consideration            an award should be established to recognize staff making significant
                         contributions in the human rights area. However, the Committee felt
                         that a bureau-level award competition would be more appropriate.
                         According to a Bureau official, the Bureau will pursue the idea of cre-
                         ating a human rights award either at the Department or Bureau level.

                         Page 29                                         GAO/NSIAlMO-224 Human Rights
                          Chapter 4
                          Human Bighta Bureau IE Sufllciently Staffed
                          and Traini+ Is Improving

                          Foreign Service officers in the Bureau are eligible for State Department-
                          wide meritorious service awards and superior service awards. The
                          Bureau has no unique awards for exceptional service.

                          Officials in the countries we visited told us that the posts are adequately
Post Political Sections   staffed to handle current human rights reporting responsibilities. Every
Are Primarily             embassy appoints a human rights officer to monitor and report on
Responsiblefor            human rights issues to the Department. According to the Bureau of
                          Human Rights, most human rights officers are political officers.
Human Rights
Reporting                 Besides the human rights officer, the embassies we visited tasked other
                          political officers, consular officers, and/or other officials to monitor cer-
                          tain aspects of human rights and contribute to the report. In Pakistan,
                          for example, refugee officers used their contacts to report on the situa-
                          tion in refugee camps. Consulates in Israel, the Philippines, and other
                          countries monitor regional human rights issues and supplement embassy
                          information for the annual human rights report.

                          The human rights officer is generally responsible for drafting the human
                          rights report, following the Bureau’s guidelines. In each of the posts we
                          visited, other staff also contributed information or drafted report seg-
                          ments. For example, in seven of the nine countries we visited, the labor
                          attaches drafted the sections of the report on workers’ rights.

                          The human rights officers’ ranks vary from junior officers (FO-06) to
                          senior officers (Fo-01). At six of the nine posts we visited, the human
                          rights officer was a junior or mid-level officer @O-OSto FO-03)3 . How-
                          ever, at these posts, supervisors with considerable human rights experi-
                          ence also spent time on human rights issues. In two of the countries we
                          visited with serious human rights problems, Guatemala and Indonesia,
                          human rights officers were upper level political officers (Fo-01/02). In
                          seven of the nine countries we visited, human rights officers or their
                          supervisors had been involved in human rights reporting at previous

                          The human rights officers spend from 1 percent to 100 percent of their
                          time on human rights. The time spent depends on the priority of other
                          issues, the embassy resources available, and the severity of the
                          country’s human rights problem. Other officers at the posts also devote

                          31none country, the human rights officer held a personal rank of Fo-02 but occupied a position
                          designated for an FQ-03 officer.

                          Page 30                                                         GAO/NSIAEWO-224
                                                                                                        Human Rights
                                          Chapter 4
                                          Human Righta Bureau Ie Sufficiently Staffed
                                          and Trednhg Ie Improving

                                          time to human rights issues. Table 4.1 shows the variation of time spent
                                          by human rights officers on human rights issues in the countries we

Table 4.1: Time Spent by Human Rlghts
Officers on Human Rlghts Irsueo in Nine                                                                      Time Spent
Countries                                 Country                                                              (Percent)
                                          Guatemala                                                                   70
                                          Indonesia                                                                   30
                                             Tel Aviv Consulate                                                       60
                                             Jerusalem Embassv                                                        75
                                          Korea                                                                    5-10
                                          Pakistan                                                                20-25
                                          PhiliDDines                                                                 75
                                          Turkey                                                                 over 30
                                          Yugoslavia                                                              20-25
                                          Zaire                                                                   20-25

                                          None of the human rights officers in the countries we visited had any
Foreign Service                           formal training in human rights, although many of the post officials had
Officers Have                             previous experience with these issues. A former human rights officer in
Experience but Little                     Guatemala asserted in an article in a Foreign Service magazine that until
                                          the Department trained human rights officers in gathering and verifying
Formal Training
--      -_ -    in                        information, the quality of the reporting could not be assured.
Human Rights
                                          Some Foreign Service officers argued that specific training in human
                                          rights issues and reporting is not necessary because State provides
                                          training in reporting on political issues, which include human rights. In
                                          addition, the variation in conditions around the world would make it dif-
                                          ficult to construct a useful course.

                                          However, other human rights officers told us that they would have ben-
                                          efited from training focusing on U.S. human rights policies, history, and
                                          the reporting process. According to State correspondence, human rights
                                          officers at posts suggested that training include, among other topics, a
                                          review of how post human rights reporting fits into the US. policy pro-
                                          cess, American standard police judicial procedures, international human
                                          rights law, the role of international organizations like the United Nations
                                          Commission on Human Rights, and techniques for assessing the relia-
                                          bility of information and statistical data. Several officers believed that it
                                          would be helpful to hold regional human rights seminars that focus on

                                          Page 31                                          GAO/NSIAD9O-224Ihma~~Right8
                        Chapter 4                                                                ,
                        Human Rights Bureau Is Sufficiently Staffed
                        and Training Is Improving

                        human rights issues in various regions and on techniques for reporting
                        and establishing contacts.

State Instituted New    Before August 1989, when State’s Foreign Service Institute began
                        instruction on human rights reporting, State offered little formal
Training Programs for   training in human rights. Human rights issues were discussed as half-
Human Rights Officers   day components of State’s entry-level orientation and political courses
                        that are required for all junior Foreign Service officers. In addition, the
                        Bureau of Human Rights briefed ambassadors and other staff on the
                        human rights situation in the countries to which they were assigned.

                        The Bureau and the Foreign Service Institute began training for human
                        rights officers in August 1989 with l-day elective courses: one for
                        officers being posted overseas with responsibility for human rights
                        reporting and one for desk officers charged with coordinating review of
                        the draft in Washington. The courses introduced the history of human
                        rights in international and U.S. law, the role Congress played in the
                        development of human rights as a component of foreign policy, the role
                        of human rights organizations, and instruction on the format of the
                        country report. In addition, the course for officers going to posts
                        included some methodology for collecting and verifying human rights

                        As of June 1990, the course in human rights reporting abroad was inte-
                        grated as a full-day component of mandatory training for political
                        officers being posted overseas. Training for desk officers, who may
                        come from skill cones other than the political cone, remains elective.
                        According to a Bureau official, the Bureau is working with the regional
                        bureaus to urge all desk officers to attend the training.

                        We attended one of the course sessions and found it a comprehensive
                        overview of the background of U.S. human rights policy and reporting.
                        However, the l-day format limited the depth of the presentation. Course
                        evaluation forms from participants in the first two course sessions
                        showed overall satisfaction with the course and indicated that partici-
                        pants found the information useful in their jobs. Several participants
                        suggested that the course be expanded to include more information on
                        how U.S. policy responds to human rights issues and on legal definitions
                        for abuses. State officials said that they recognized the constraints of
                        the format but that they thought that more staff would come to a one-
                        day course than a longer one.

                        Page 32                                          GAO/NSIAD-90-224Human Rights
              chapter 4
              Ehuu~ Bighta Bureau ICISuf’fldently Staffed
              and Tlhdnhg Is Improving

              As of May 1990, ‘22 Foreign Service officers had attended the human
              rights reporter’s course, and 26 had attended the course for desk
              officers. A State official said that number would double by the end of
              the summer, since Foreign Service officers usually move between posts
              in the summer and receive training before they move to their new
              assignments. None of the human rights officers in the countries we vis-
              ited had attended the human rights training. The two desk officers who
              had taken the course said it was useful in helping them review and coor-
              dinate the 1989 report.

              State does not have specific, formal training    for ambassadors to address
              human rights. Instead, ambassadors usually      meet with Bureau officials
              to be briefed on the human rights situations    in the countries where they
              will serve. Bureau officials commented that     human rights should be
              included in ambassadorial training.

              When the Bureau of Human Rights is fully staffed, staffing is adequate
Conclusions   for its oversight role in preparing the human rights report, although its
              resources are stretched thin. The Bureau has had trouble attracting For-
              eign Service officers in the past, but the Bureau was able to fill all
              vacancies for Foreign Service officers in the 1989-90 assignment cycle.
              As of May 1990, the Bureau was fully staffed. Embassies and regional
              bureaus also devote resources to human rights issues and preparation of
              the individual country reports, with the amount of time varying
              depending on resources available and the seriousness of the human
              rights problems in particular countries.

              The Department officials dealing with human rights issues have
              acquired substantial experience in human rights reporting, although
              they have had little, if any, formal training. State has begun to address
              training needs previously identified by Foreign Service officers and
              other human rights observers. New political officers will now receive
              training in human rights as a part of their mandatory training. A course
              designed for desk officers, who may not be political officers, is offered
              quarterly but is not required. Few Foreign Service officers dealing with
              human rights have taken the training to date.

              Page 83                                           GAO/NSIAD90-224 Human Rights
Appendix 1

Major Contributors to This Report

                        Jess T. Ford, Assistant Director
National Security and   Paul G. Atkins, Evaluator-in-Charge
International Affairs   Margaret E. Gaddy, Evaluator
Washington, D.C.
                        James R. Hamilton, Site Senior
European Office         Ann Calvaresi Barr, Evaluator

                        Raymond M. Ridgeway, Site Senior
Far East Office         Joanna M. Stamatiades, Evaluator

(462684)                Page 34                               GAO/NSIAtMO-224 Human Right.8
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