The United States has and will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments, the Biden Administration said on March 20, 2023 as it released the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
The report claimed that last year India experienced significant human rights violations including alleged unlawful and arbitrary killings, challenges to freedom of press, interference with privacy, and violence targeting religious and ethnic minorities.
"The US and India regularly consult at the highest levels on democracy and human rights issues. We have and we will continue to strongly urge India to uphold its human rights obligations and commitments," Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Erin Barclay told reporters after the release of the 2022 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
"Not surprisingly, we also regularly meet with civil society both in the US and in India to hear their perspectives and learn from their experiences, and we encourage the Government of India to consult with them as well," she said.
Responding to a question on a recent BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots, she said the US will continue to support press freedom.
"On the BBC issue, we're of course aware of the BBC issues and we will continue to support free press around the world and have communicated the same," Barclay said.
Released by Secretary of State Tony Blinken, the annual human rights reports of the State Department is a mandatory requirement of the US Congress giving details of human rights status in countries across the world.
The latest edition of the annual report slams Russia and China for the massive violation of human rights, along with some other nations like Iran, North Korea and Myanmar.
Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine beginning in February 2022 has resulted in massive death and destruction, with reports of members of Russia’s forces committing war crimes and other atrocities, including summary executions of civilians and horrific accounts of gender-based violence, including sexual violence against women and children, Blinken said in the report.
In Xinjiang, China, the country report describes how genocide and crimes against humanity continued to occur against predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups, he said.
"Democracy, human rights, and labor rights are mutually reinforcing, and support for democratic renewal is essential to promoting these rights," Mr. Blinken said and announced that President Joe Biden will co-host the second Summit for Democracy with the Governments of Costa Rica, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and the Republic of Zambia on March 29-30.
The India portion of the country report claims that a lack of accountability for official misconduct persisted at all levels of government, contributing to widespread impunity. Lax enforcement, a shortage of trained police officers, and an overburdened and under-resourced court system contributed to a low number of convictions, it said.
Among the significant human rights violations in India in 2022, as per the State Department, are unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials, and harsh and life-threatening prison conditions.
It also flagged alleged arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful interference with privacy, restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including violence or threats of violence, unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, and enforcement of or threat to enforce criminal libel laws to limit expression.
It also mentions restrictions on internet freedom, interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, restrictions on freedom of movement and on the right to leave the country, refoulement of refugees, serious government corruption; and alleged harassment of domestic and international human rights organizations.
Among other issues, it lists lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence, including domestic and intimate partner violence.
It also lists crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national/racial/ethnic and minority groups based on religious affiliation, social status or sexual orientation; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons; and existence of forced and compulsory labour.
"There were reports that government authorities accessed, collected, or used private communication arbitrarily or unlawfully or without appropriate legal authority and developed practices that allow for the arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy, including the use of technology to arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil or interfere with the privacy of individuals,” it said.
"Laws permit the government to intercept calls to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the country, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, for public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offense. The government denied conducting surveillance activities that violated laws or formally established procedures," it said.
Observing that independent media were active and generally expressed a wide variety of views, the State Department said citizens generally enjoyed freedom of speech, but the government continued to restrict content based on broad public and national interest provisions.