The U.S. Department of State released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2016 on Friday. Unlike previous years, the reports were not publicly launched by the Secretary of State but rather by an un-named "senior administration official." At the teleconference briefing, this official provided some history regarding the reports and how they have changed over the years; here is a portion of what was said:
"This is the 41st year we’re issuing human rights reports. They began in the 1970s when hearings revealed U.S. security assistance had been provided to regimes that had perpetrated gross abuses of human rights. In response, Congress mandated that the Secretary of State provide an annual report on human rights practices in any country receiving U.S. assistance. The scope was subsequently broadened to include all member-states of the United Nations, and today’s release covers 199 countries and territories.
A former boss of mine who was already in the Foreign Service in the 1970s told me that when the reports were first mandated, there was a considerable amount of discomfit in the department about the idea of providing public, unclassified information on human rights conditions in a country where we maintain diplomatic relations. Today, however, I think quite happily, we are in a very different place. The Human Rights Reports we update annually provide factual information about current human rights conditions to inform and assist the Executive Branch, the U.S. Congress, and the courts. Human rights issues are regularly factored into our policy deliberations. Human rights advocates, lawmakers, scholars, multilateral institutions, and other governments also draw on their content."
The 2016 reports are available here. Individual country reports will eventually be incorporated into ecoi.net and Refworld.