The 40th annual State Department report on human rights is raising more eyebrows than usual this year, as the preface by Secretary of State John Kerry warns of a “global governance crisis” wherein countries around the world are cracking down on basic freedoms and stifling dissent, often violently.
While the report goes after usual targets like China and Russia, it also singles out a number of high-profile US allies on this note, criticizing NATO member Turkey for prosecuting journalists as terrorists and killing Kurdish civilians, criticizing Israel for excessive and arbitrary violence against Palestinians, and noting that Egypt’s military junta continues to torture detainees to death in its prisons.
Kerry suggested the report would “strengthen US determination” to promote human rights abroad, though the largest US recipients of foreign aid are also some of the most glaring violators of human rights, and there is no suggestion that recognizing their violations in the report will mean anything in practical terms.
US law forbids providing military aid to nations violating human rights, but it routinely does so. Indeed, US law also forbids providing aid to military dictatorships, but the flow of aid to Egypt never really stopped after the 2013 coup, only slowing slightly for a short period, amid large-scale massacres on the streets.
Kerry, and other top US officials, have argued that keeping the aid flowing gives the US leverage to encourage better behavior from violators, though again this never seems to happen in practice, with nations like Egypt and Israel routinely at the top of the US aid list and also reacting furiously at even the most minor criticism of their excesses.