Washington, 29 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice noted that President George W. Bush devoted much of his inauguration address two months ago to his policy of fostering human rights and democracy around the world.
Rice said the United States believes that its own security cannot be improved unless it exists in a world where more and more nations are free and open. And she said that is just what has happened in recent months.
"The past year has seen a dramatic shift in the world's landscape," she said. "Elections in Afghanistan, the Palestinian territories and Iraq, and developments in places like Georgia and Ukraine and Lebanon have brought the dramatic first steps of democracy to populations that have lived under tyranny and oppression for too long. What these dramatic events have shown us is that societies of free citizens must be founded on a commitment to the dignity of each individual."
"[The] goal is to have a peaceful, orderly transition, and I think we've, by and large, seen that. I mean, look at Ukraine, look at Georgia. Those have not been -- there's not been much violence associated with those changes. And even Kyrgyzstan, you know, I mean, we're trying to see that there's not a great deal of violence. We've been calling all along on both sides to eschew violence." -- Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor
The report, titled "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004-2005," says the American government promoted freedom by talking with governments, multilateral institutions, and with nongovernmental organizations on how best to improve the records of some countries.
Washington also uses financial assistance and other positive methods to encourage certain countries to improve their standings, and acts more negatively, such as with economic sanctions, with certain other countries.
During a news conference held to release the document, reporters repeatedly asked Michael Kozak, the acting assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, if this represents a double standard. Kozak replied that each country requires a unique approach, and that Washington is never sure about a given approach until it either succeeds or fails.
"You've got to figure out what is that country's role in the world, what's the best way to attack the problem with that country," he said. "And there's a whole series of tools, and it's a mix-and-match type of deal. That's what we're trying to lay out in this report -- what the mix and match is in each case. And it's always debatable. It gets debated very heavily within the government. It'll get debated very strongly in the public, and that's healthy."
At one point, a reporter asked Kozak if U.S. support for democracy in places such as Kyrgyzstan could also, unwittingly, be blamed for violence, looting, and other troubles in such places.
Kozak said the United States has always called for peaceful changes in power.
"[The] goal is to have a peaceful, orderly transition, and I think we've, by and large, seen that," he said. "I mean, look at Ukraine, look at Georgia. Those have not been -- there's not been much violence associated with those changes. And even Kyrgyzstan, you know, I mean, we're trying to see that there's not a great deal of violence. We've been calling all along on both sides to eschew violence."
Kozak also was asked how the United States could preach respect for human rights after some U.S. soldiers abused prisoners at the Abu Ghurayb prison outside Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq. He replied that when the story first broke, he and his colleagues feared that America's reputation had been ruined in the Middle East.
But Kozak said the next reports that the world heard were about soldiers being court-martialed on charges stemming from the abuse. Americans may have committed crimes, he said, but the U.S. government makes it known that the American system does not tolerate such behavior and works quickly to punish abusers.
(The full report can be found at http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/shrd/2004/index.htm)