State Dept. 92 Days Past Legal Deadline for Releasing Human Rights Reports on Iran/TPP Nations

By Brittany M. Hughes | May 27, 2015 | 5:09pm EDT
Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Montreux, Switzerland on March 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) – The State Department is now 92 days past the legally mandated Feb. 25 deadline for releasing its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and has not yet scheduled a date to release them.

At no time in at least the last 22 years, going back through President Clinton's first term, has the department waited this long to release the reports.

The annual reports, which were first published in 1977, detail human rights abuses in all nations that are members of the United Nations or receive aid from the United States. They include reports on Iran—with which the Obama administration is negotiating a nuclear arms agreement—and the eleven nations involved in negotiations with the administration to establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade zone. Those nations include Vietnam, which the State Department described in last year’s report as a communist regime, and Malaysia, in which the State Department said Sharia law in enforced on the majority Muslim population.

During a press briefing Wednesday, State Department Spokesman Jeff Rathke would not comment on when the department plans to release the reports. He also would not say whether the reports will be published before the administration wraps up the TPP trade talks or the nuclear negotiations with Iran, which are set to conclude on June 30.

CNSNews.com asked Rathke during the briefing: “Yesterday, you said the State Department was looking at scheduling opportunities for the 2014 Human Rights Reports. Can you confirm that the reports have been completed and are just waiting to be released at this point?”

“I don’t have an update on the Human Rights Reports,” Rathke responded. “If I get more then I’m happy to share that, but I don’t have anything further to say than yesterday.”

CNSNews.com followed up: “Do you know if the administration is going to release the reports before the administration finishes negotiations over the TPP or the Iran nuclear agreement on June 30?”

“Again, it’s the same question you asked yesterday. I don’t have anything further to say beyond yesterday,” Rahtke said before calling on another reporter..

On Tuesday, CNSNews.com had asked Rathke why the department had not yet released the reports. Rathke also stated then that he had no update on when the reports would be published, but that the department has “just been trying to find a scheduling opportunity for release.”

According to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the reports must be submitted to the Speaker of the House and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Feb. 25 each year.

CNSNews.com checked the release dates of all previous Human Rights Reports dating back to 1993 when President Bill Clinton first took office.

In the past 22 years, 2012 was the year in which the State Department delayed the longest in releasing the reports. That year, which was also a Leap Year, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released the 2011 Country Human Reports on Human Rights Practices on May 24, which was 89 days late.

Last year, the 2013 reports were published on Feb. 27, two days after the deadline.

During President George W. Bush’s two-term presidency, both the 2000 and 2003 Human Rights Reports were published on Feb. 25. The 2004 Report was published three days late on Feb. 28, 2005.

Four other Human Rights Reports published under the Bush administration, including those for 2001, 2005, 2006, and 2007, were all published in early March.

During Bush’s presidency, the latest date on which the Human Rights Reports were released was March 31, 2003.

During the eight years President Bill Clinton was in office, the reports were released three times during the month of January, four times during February, and once in March.

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