The US Department of State (DOS) [official website] on Thursday released [text, reports] its annual country reports on human rights. In the preface to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry [official website] wrote that the DOS will "continue to press governments to uphold fundamental freedoms. We remain committed to advocating on behalf of civil society and speaking out for the protection of human rights for all individuals." The preface also highlighted some of the major human rights violations and existing legislative restrictions, calling attention to Syria, Russia, China, Ukraine, Cuba, Egypt and South Sudan. The introduction to the report recognizes that there have been important human rights developments in the following areas: civil society and the freedoms of association and assembly; free expression and press freedom; security force abuses; labor rights; and vulnerable groups, such as religious and ethnic minorities, women and children, LGBT persons and communities, and persons with disabilities. The human rights violations occurring as a result of the Syrian war [JURIST backgrounder] were mentioned as standing apart from the rest of the major developments due to their scope and human cost. Other notable mentions include: consequences of the Arab Spring; anti-activist suppression in countries such as China and Cuba; establishment of the rule of law in Libya, the release of political prisoners in Myanmar, and Russia's anti-LGBT legislation [JURIST news archives and backgrounders. The report was submitted to the Congress by the DOS in compliance with Sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) [text].
The DOS issues its yearly reports on human rights practices to Congress under a legal mandate [22 USC § 2151n] and has filed similar reports for 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 [JURIST reports] and previous years.