2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – the Human Rights Report – cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974.

As mandated by Congress, every year since 1977, the State Department’s dedicated public servants in U.S. missions abroad and in Washington scrupulously examine, track, and document the state of human rights in nearly 200 countries and territories around the world.  In compiling these “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices,” commonly known as the Human Rights Report (HRR), we have drawn from a variety of credible, fact-based sources, including reporting from government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and media.  The HRR helps connect U.S. diplomatic and foreign assistance efforts to the fundamental American value of protecting and promoting respect for human rights for all, while helping to inform the work of civil society, human rights defenders, scholars, multilateral institutions, and others.

The President’s Summit for Democracy underscores the United States’ commitment to advancing respect for human rights, and to the promotion of democracy as the most effective system of government to secure them.  We are pleased the third Summit for Democracy took place this year under the Republic of Korea’s leadership.  Through the Summits for Democracy, the United States and other participating governments, along with partners from civil society, youth, and other stakeholders, seek to cement progress in human rights, foster democratic reforms, expand space for independent media, advance women’s rights, combat corruption, and make technology work for democracies and their people, not misused by malign actors as a tool of repression.

The year covered by this HRR coincided with the 75th anniversary of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  In commemoration of the anniversary, the United States made several new commitments, including to renew investments around the world in democracy and human rights, to help protect human rights defenders online, and to advance racial and gender justice in the United States.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the authors of the UDHR, “The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all our citizens in all our communities.”  We hope that this Report proves a useful contribution to that shared global effort, by chronicling both sobering developments in specific countries, as well as evidence of progress.

The Kremlin’s disregard and contempt for human rights are on full display in its war against Ukraine.  Russian forces employ violence against civilians as a deliberate tool of warfare.  The Report highlights documentation of human rights violations and abuses – some amounting to crimes against humanity – throughout the second year of Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine.  Civilians, including Ukrainian children, have suffered egregious abuses by Russian forces and other Russian officials.  Tens of thousands of Ukrainian children have been transferred within Russia-occupied parts of Ukraine and/or deported to Russia, in many cases taken from their parents or lawful guardians and forced to take Russian names and citizenship.  Russia is cracking down on its own citizens, bringing spurious criminal charges against hundreds of Russians who have spoken against Putin’s war of aggression.

Across Sudan, the Sudanese Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces have unleashed horrific violence, death, and destruction, including mass killings, unjust detentions, rape, and other forms of gender-based violence.  In December, I determined that members of both forces engaged in war crimes, and that members of the Rapid Support Forces and allied militia engaged in crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  Elsewhere in Africa, Uganda’s government took aim at the human rights of all Ugandans, enacting a broad, draconian anti-LGBTQI+ legislation, including the death penalty for “serial offenders.”

The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues to raise deeply troubling concerns for human rights.  Hamas’ brutal terrorist attacks on October 7 killed around 1,200 people, took approximately 230 Israeli and foreign hostages, and included appalling abuses, including gender-based violence and sexual violence.  As Israel exercises its right to self-defense, we have made clear that it must conduct military operations in accordance with international law and take every feasible precaution to protect civilians.  We continue to urgently raise concerns surrounding the deaths of and injuries to tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including women, children, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable persons.  We repeatedly have pressed concerns about Palestinian civilians’ access to humanitarian assistance, displacement of the majority of the population of Gaza, and the unprecedented number of journalists killed.  We have repeatedly condemned Hamas’ abhorrent misuse of civilians and civilian infrastructure as human shields and its continued refusal to release all hostages.  We also continue to condemn the record levels of violence in the West Bank, including attacks by violent extremist settlers against Palestinian civilians.

The Report illuminates the ongoing and brutal human rights abuses in Iran, where the regime’s violent repression of its citizens occurs at home and even abroad, including through acts of transnational repression targeting the regime’s perceived dissidents and critics.  Iranian women and members of marginalized communities continue to suffer disproportionately from the regime’s human rights violations and abuses.  Once detained, many prisoners have been harshly punished and even executed for spurious or unjust reasons.

The Report illustrates the Taliban’s systemic mistreatment of and discrimination against Afghanistan’s women and girls.  The Taliban have issued over 50 decrees and edicts that effectively erase women from public life.  Credible sources cited in the Report describe how the military regime in Burma continues to use brutal violence against the general population to consolidate its control, killing more than 4,000 people and detaining more than 25,000.

The Report documents ongoing grave human rights abuses in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  For example, in Xinjiang, the PRC continues to carry out genocide, crimes against humanity, forced labor, and other human rights violations against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.

In Cuba, more than 1,000 political prisoners are reportedly unjustly detained and subjected to harsh treatment; their family members are targets of threats as well.  In Nicaragua, the Ortega-Murillo regime closed more than 300 civil society organizations in 2023, bringing the number of shuttered organizations to more than 3,500.  The regime also stripped more than 300 individuals of their citizenship and is holding more than 100 political prisoners in appalling conditions.

Yet, encouraging developments also can be found in this Report.  For example, although members of marginalized and minority communities continued to suffer disproportionately from human rights violations and abuses in 2023, several countries made important progress.  Kenya affirmed that freedom of expression and of assembly extend to LGBTQI+ persons. Japan enacted a bill to promote understanding of LGBTQI+ issues.  LGBTQI+ persons in Estonia and Slovenia now benefit from legislation recognizing marriage equality.

To advance the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities, the Ministry of Education in Jordan appointed 600 individuals to implement inclusive education programming across the country to ensure children with disabilities could attend school and have the necessary support to enable their learning.

The Report also notes advances in implementing labor reforms in Mexico, where workers are overcoming obstacles to organizing and starting to improve working conditions.  As I noted when I helped launch the Biden-Harris Administration’s Global Labor Directive at APEC in San Francisco, advancing labor rights globally boosts American workers and bolsters middle class aspirations here at home.

This Report could not have been compiled without the selfless work of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and other civil society leaders whose daily work to advance human rights is an inspiration to us all.  I hope that the honest and public assessments of human rights abuses, as well as the reports of progress, reflected in these pages gives strength to these brave individuals across the globe who often put their lives at risk to improve conditions in their own countries, and, ultimately, make the world a freer, safer place for us all.

Antony J. BlinkenSecretary of State