Since Donald Trump has been president, the U.S. State Department has been omitting information about human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ and intersex people as well as women from reports on certain countries, according to the U.K.’s Asylum Research Centre.
An ARC report released this week, Comparative Analysis of U.S Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, “identifies serious omissions of human rights issues and inadequately substantiated reports of improvements in the U.S. State Department’s country reports,” says a press release from the organization.
ARC compared the State Department’s assessment of the situation in Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and Sudan in 2016, the last year of President Barack Obama’s administration to reports on events in 2017, 2018, and 2019 under the Trump administration.
The reports for those three years “were not consistent with the situation on the ground as documented by other sources and have the effect of downplaying the seriousness of the human rights situations in these countries,” according to ARC. The changes in the Trump years came primarily in coverage of “women’s rights, civil and political rights, and issues relating to LGBTI persons,” the group says.
For instance, information about violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ and intersex people — ARC uses the acronym LGBTI — was absent from the report on Iraq, and discrimination was not noted in the report on Iran.
Reports on some of the other countries lacked information about violence against women and girls, torture in prisons, legal restrictions to women’s rights, and execution of minors, according to ARC. On all the countries, a section titled “Coercion in Population Control” took the place of one that had been called “Reproductive Rights” in the Obama years, “thereby omitting information related to accessing reproductive rights, contraception, and pre- and post-natal health care,” the group notes.
“Our research shows that the State Department under the Trump administration has excluded human rights issues from its reports which continue to be well documented elsewhere,” Liz Williams, co-director of ARC, said in the release. “We are concerned that these omissions have the effect of denying the existence of rights or abuses and may result in certain types of asylum claims being dismissed if the U.S. Department of State reports are relied upon in isolation.”
“Given the importance of the U.S. Department of State reports in deciding asylum claims in a number of countries including the U.K., we welcome this report which highlights the omission of critical data regarding the discrimination and human rights abuses LGBTQI+ people face around the world,” added Leila Zadeh, executive director of the U.K. Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. “Omitting this information could result in LGBTQI+ people being returned to danger. Decision-makers should consider country background evidence with a more critical eye, as lack of reporting on the risks LGBTQI+ people face in their countries of origin doesn’t automatically mean such risks don’t exist.”
The full report is downloadable here.