WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today issued the following statement after a Politico report described how individuals from Secretary Tillerson’s office directed State Department staff to strip or pare back passages in the soon-to-be-released annual Country Reports on Human Rights on women’s rights, family planning, and on discrimination based on race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.
“As if this Administration hasn’t already done enough to damage U.S. global leadership on human rights, I am profoundly alarmed to read reports of Secretary Tillerson’s alleged efforts to water down or delete critical sections of the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights related to women’s rights and on the responsibilities of governments to protect individual rights regardless of race, ethnicity or LGBT status. These Congressionally-mandated reports shed light on human rights conditions around the world, and help shape United States foreign policy objectives and strategies.
“The State Department’s reported efforts to simply erase hard and fast truths about the importance of these rights in free and fair societies is appalling. While it should come as no surprise that an Administration that has sought to roll-back the rights of women and girls globally would now seek to erase violations of those rights from the State Department’s premier annual global human rights report, the victims of these human rights violations and the hard-working advocates who fight discrimination and protect universal women’s rights deserve a better reflection of American values.
“I intend to use all of the tools at my disposal – from hearings to legislation to investigations – to challenge any arbitrary weakening and politicization of this critical report. Against the backdrop of a decades-long decline in fundamental human rights across the globe, Secretary Tillerson should lead and advance the moral imperative and vital interest in extending the rights of women, LGBT and other minorities and human rights, instead of erasing them in the State Department’s own annual Country Reports on Human Rights.”