The U.S. State Department released its annual human rights report on Friday with little fanfare, repeating longstanding past concerns with Cambodia’s judiciary, corruption and intimidation of civil society to an increasingly unreceptive government.
On Monday, President Donald Trump outlined budget proposals that would boost military spending while cutting funding to an array of other programs.
HRW’s Washington Director Sarah Margon reacts:
The world is a lot more complicated than can be seen from a Predator drone or an F-35. A budget that slashes State Department and USAID funding, while further expanding the Pentagon, shows Trump is intent on undermining US government agencies that address pressing human rights issues, most of which are not dealt with by military force.
There are also indications that the Trump budget seeks to cut State Department programs, including those that fund independent media, civil society groups, and the rule of law. Doing so would reverse decades of bipartisan consensus that the United States benefits from a world where executive authority is constrained by these essential checks on democracy.
The most significant human rights problems included a politicized and ineffective judiciary; increased restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; and the use of violence and imprisonment–both actual and threatened–to intimidate the political opposition and civil society as well as to suppress dissenting voices.
Other human rights problems included continued prisoner abuse, restrictions on press freedom and online expression, failure to grant equal access and fair treatment to asylum seekers, pervasive corruption, and trafficking in persons.
Reuters and other news outlets reported earlier this week that the administration plans to propose to Congress cuts in the budgets for the U.S. State Department and Agency for International Development by about one third.
“We are going to propose to reduce foreign aid and we are going to propose to spend that money here,” White House Office of Management Budget director Mick Mulvaney told Fox News on Saturday, adding the proposed cuts would include “fairly dramatic reductions in foreign aid.”
The United States spends just over $50 billion annually on the State Department and USAID, compared with $600 billion or more each year on the Pentagon.