U.S. Department of State
96/03/06 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release March 6, l996
SPECIAL BRIEFING WITH SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER AND TIMOTHY WIRTH, UNDER SECRETARY FOR GLOBAL AFFAIRS, AND JOHN SHATTUCK, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR ON 1995 COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES
U.S. Department of State
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. The Secretary of State, Secretary Christopher, is going to make a statement on our annual submission of human rights reports in just a moment. After he is finished with his statement, he'll have to leave. He doesn't have time to take questions today. But he will be followed by the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Tim Wirth, and by the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, John Shattuck.
Under Secretary Wirth will make a statement. He'll be followed by Assistant Secretary Shattuck, who will be here to answer your questions on the human rights reports.
When we finish this portion of the program, we finish the question-and-answer period, we'll take a l5- minute break; and then we'll proceed with our normal State Department briefing on all other issues.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon. Today I'm transmitting to the Congress the State Department's 20th annual Country Reports on Human Rights. A central principle of our American foreign policy is that promoting human rights reflects both our ideals and advances our interests. Our efforts are shaped by the cold, hard facts in these reports. They shine an impartial and balanced spotlight on the record -- on the abuses that might otherwise be covered by a veil of indifference, as well as on the progress that has been made in recent years.
The early human rights reports were prepared in the late l970s under my direction when I was Deputy Secretary of State. In l977, my first year, only 82 were prepared; and they were really quite rudimentary compared to the present report, which now cover l94 countries -- more than twice as many as we did back in l977. But even so, these early reports were valuable in that they set a precedent, which has been built on over the years.
Taken together, the reports of the last 20 years tell a vivid story of how much the world has changed. It's a story that I was very much reminded of when I was on my trip to Latin America and the Caribbean last week.
The early reports in the early years, in the late l970s on Latin America, were a grim picture of military rule and oppression. Since then the hemisphere has undergone one of the most remarkable transformations, I think, in recent history. This did not happen overnight. Of course, it took years of struggle, year of patient diplomacy; but look at the results: Now our neighbors to the south and north are among our closest partners in trade, in peacekeeping, and in the fight against proliferation. None of this could have happened, I believe, if the hemisphere was still caught in the web of dictatorship.
Of course, one government in the hemisphere still resists the will of the people. We were horrified by the callous shootdown by Cuba of two unarmed civilian planes, and this was an emotion that I found throughout Latin America as I travelled there -- a sense of condemnation and deploring of this conduct.
I don't suppose we should have been surprised that the lawless behavior of the Cuban regime on the high seas was only a mirror of this lawless behavior at home. As the human rights report makes clear, Cuban authorities continue "to harass, threaten, imprison, defame, and physically attack" those who seek to express an independent point of view.
We support the rule of law in Cuba and around the world not only because it protects individual rights but because it advances our other interests. For example, the rogue states that possess the greatest threat to America's security -- states like Iran, Iraq, and Libya -- are among the world's greatest violators of human rights; and it's no coincidence that two nations singled out in our reports, Nigeria and Burma, were also featured in our drug decertifications last week. Their disdain for law protects the drug trade, even as it harms ordinary citizens.
I obviously do not have time to refer to all the human rights violations contained in these reports; but when you look at the country reports I think you will find that they live up to the reputation for candor and for directness, such as has been established in the earlier reports.
This year's reports do also chronicle two great triumphs in human rights and freedom.
In Haiti, an elected president gave way to his another elected president, the first time that that has happened in the tragic history of Haiti.
In Bosnia, American leadership has brought atrocities to an end and has given that nation an opportunity for peace.
In both Haiti and Bosnia, we have provided ground support to help lawful, democratic governments emerge. We've launched new institutions, such as the International War Crimes Tribunal, and we have tested new ways -- such as the use of civilian police monitors.
In the Bosnia negotiations at Dayton, I can tell you that human rights issues played a role, which I believe is almost without precedent in American diplomacy. The peace treaty is unique because it commits each party to help us account for past war crimes or abuses.
We've a long way to go in Bosnia and elsewhere, but I think we can take pride in what the United States has accomplished. Over the past several years, from the beginning of the human rights reports, our leadership has helped to put human rights on the international agenda. Today, I believe, our leadership is setting a new standard -- a standard that justice is essential to peace and reconciliation, and that war criminals will be held accountable for their actions.
As President Clinton has said, on this 50th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials, we can now build support for a permanent international court of criminal justice to prosecute serious violations of the humanitarian laws.
America's commitment to these human rights issues has long been a vital source of our authority in the world. It's rooted in the values of our people. I can assure you that the President has made human rights a very high priority not only in our relations with other countries, but particularly in our relationships with our own citizens.
Thank you very much. MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like now to call upon Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Tim Wirth.
UNDER SECRETARY WIRTH: Thank you very much, Nick.
As we unveil today the human rights reports, I wanted to put a particular point on the reports' emphasis on women. In l993, the Clinton Administration added a major new element to the human rights reports: increased focus on the human rights of women and the advancement of their status.
As part of this overall priority, we took a major leadership role at the World Conference on Women in Beijing -- again focusing on the human rights, equality and empowerment of women. At the Beijing conference, governments around the world reaffirmed the universality of human rights. Hillary Clinton led the U.S. delegation and awakened the world with her fine lead statement: "Women's rights are human rights; human rights are women's rights."
In l995, country reports reflect the heightened attention that women's rights received last year. The document includes unprecedented expanded coverage of the human rights violations affecting women, especially with regard to violence against women -- an issue that President Clinton has particularly identified as a problem which we must put an end to.
Great effort went into improving the reporting on this issue. A concerted and intense campaign resulted in more consistent and expanded coverage of violations against women, as well as the steps that governments have taken to prevent the abuses.
As examples, you might want to look in particular at the report on Canada, which has a wonderful broad-based, new, government-wide policy on women.
In Argentina -- where there is a reference to and a description of major constitutional changes to protect the rights of women.
The Central Africa Republic -- major problems there on female genital mutilation.
And in Bosnia -- where the impact on women of ethnic cleansing is unhappily described.
Appropriately, this year as well, the release of the country reports occurs the same week as Women's Day, which is March 8, this coming Friday. We will be celebrating International Women's Day in the Dean Acheson Auditorium. Secretary Christopher will be opening the meeting Friday morning with a policy statement on the role of women in our efforts around the world and as agents of change globally.
Geraldine Ferraro will be following with, also, a program honoring the contributions of several women in Congress. We hope that as many of you as possible may be able to join us, which will be at 9:00 this Friday morning.
Thank you very much.
MR. BURNS: I'd now like to call upon Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, who is the steward of our human rights program and who himself over the past year has stood up for human rights in Bosnia and elsewhere in the world.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Thank you very much. I have a brief statement. I know you've heard statements, and I want to move to your questions, but I do want to give you a few points first.
Nineteen ninety-five, I think, as these reports show indirectly, and other activities show more directly, was a year of U.S. leadership on human rights -- leadership that produced significant progress toward resolution of some of the world's most catastrophic human rights crises.
The Dayton Accords ended the fighting in Bosnia, which for the first six months of this year, as the reports show, was the source of continuing massive genocide and crimes against humanity. Central to our peace strategy in Bosnia were the ten human rights missions that we conducted this year to spotlight the atrocities and secure commitments to stop them.
Other conflicts which had spawned major human rights violations also moved closer to resolution. Halting steps were taken towards peace in Angola, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland, despite continuing terrorist attacks on the very process of peace itself.
Our diplomatic and military efforts last year to end the human rights crisis and restore democratic government in Haiti were an important forerunner to the Dayton Accords and our work in Bosnia. In Haiti, as in Bosnia, our continuing support for the reconstruction of civil society, democratic institutions, and the rule of law is essential to ending human rights catastrophes.
Our support for the International War Crimes Tribunal -- as Secretary of Christopher has pointed out -- in The Hague, demonstrates concretely that the integration of peace with justice is essential.
Yesterday, at a Bosnia Peace International Implementation Conference in Vienna, the United States forged an international consensus that economic reconstruction assistance should be denied to local authorities who harbor war criminals.
In many countries around the world, familiar patterns of abuse occurred in many changing contexts. I'd like to mention three.
In China, while the economy grew steadily and new emphasis was placed on legal reform, the Chinese Government continued to commit widespread and well- documented abuses in violation of international norms. Overall, in l995, the authorities stepped up repression of dissent, and by year's end almost all public dissent against the central administration had been silenced.
This year, the U.S. will again join with other countries in co-sponsoring a resolution on China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva. Our final position, of course, as was the case last year, will depend on the actual human rights situation when the Commission votes.
In Russia, while Communism has been replaced by democracy, the future is uncertain. Nineteen ninety- five saw a continued and widespread use of military force against civilians in Chechnya, the undermining of official institutions established to monitor human rights in Russia, and the continued violation of rights and liberties by security forces.
The U.S. has repeatedly criticized, both publicly and privately, the serious human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Finally, Nigeria presents a classic picture of human rights abuse as the regime of General Sani Abacha has ruthlessly suppressed dissent in that country. The U.S. is stepping up pressure on Nigeria to change, working closely with other countries.
There are many other topics that I can summarize in an opening statement, but I will leave it to your questions.
Q Mr. Shattuck, doesn't your comment just now from the report about China indicate that the Administration's policy of engagement has not worked to improve the human rights record?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: No. I think the focus of our efforts over the last three years has been very consistent, and the situation involving human rights in China has also been quite consistent. There is no question that economic integration enhances human rights, but our approach is not limited to economic engagement.
We are pursuing a wide range of other forms of engagement. We believe that economic growth has had a positive impact on human rights in many other parts of the world. Certainly, that's the case in other parts of Asia -- be it Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, and other countries. But economic growth is not, in and off itself, the ultimate sufficient condition for a full flowering of human rights.
The United States has worked in many ways, both to promote economic growth in China and to promote human rights. We have not in any way hesitated to call the situation by its proper name. We have also not hesitated to point to long-term trends when they seem to be more positive, such as the legal reforms that have been undertaken over a longer term and some of which are chronicled in our human rights report this year.
We have also worked consistently in multilateral settings, such as the U.N. Human Rights Commission. We did so last year and the year before, and we will continue to do so. Our position on the human rights situation in China is very consistent. We do not believe that curtailment of trade or sanctions in the kind of broad sanctions that some have called for would, in fact, enhance human rights in China. But there are many other ways in which we are keeping faith with those many millions of people in China who are seeking to improve the overall situation in their country with respect to civil and political rights.
Q To follow on that, clearly, your report keeps faith with those people. But don't you think it would have gotten the attention of the people in China if the Secretary had made some comment about China in his remarks, or had even entertained any questions about China?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The Secretary has repeatedly made comments about China. I want to just draw your attention to a particular statement that he made which, I think, captures the position that I've just described. He said he wanted to make it clear that we are relying on the invisible hand of economics alone to bring about human rights progress. Economic freedom may promote political freedom, but it is not by itself sufficient. This is a comment that he has made following the decision and repeated following the decision to de-link MFN and human rights promotion in China.
Q Would you like to elaborate more on Kashmir?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Kashmir is one of the many conflicts that are chronicled in our report -- tragic conflicts -- I think, where differences occur on the ground in particular localities based on either ethnicity or religion. Those conflicts result in major human rights abuses.
The United States has called for Pakistan and India to engage together on the subject of Kashmir. We've also focused the spotlight on human rights abuses in Kashmir. We believe that the prospect for an ultimate negotiated settlement to that conflict and an improvement of human rights depends very much on the will of the parties and the engagement of people in Kashmir itself.
Q Could you explain how and why the Clinton Administration is now encouraging Israel to take actions in the occupied territories that it criticizes them for in this report?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Would you repeat that question? I'm not sure I fully -- linkage.
Q Could you explain for me why the United States is encouraging Israel to take actions in the occupied territories now, such as house sealings, administrative detention, etc., that it criticizes them for in the report this year on last year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: We all know that the terrible tragedy of the last 13 days in Israel with respect to five terrorist attacks on innocent civilians and the loss of a very large number of lives.
The United States is condemning and seeking to end those terrorist attacks. We are not in any way changing our position on the long-term needs for human rights improvements with respect to those who are in no way engaged in these terrorist activities. Issues such as house sealings and border sealings and long-term structural impediments to the exchange of people and freedom of movement and the full flowering of human rights, clearly, over time, need to be eliminated.
Certainly, in this immediate period, there is a great challenge for all who favor peace and human rights in the region to do everything possible to end terrorism, consistent with the rights of all the people in the region. That is the position of the United States.
Q Going to my colleague's question about the closure and holding and collecting people and taking them out of their homes. The closure has been going on for a long, long time. There is a collective punishment of the Palestinians -- the good, the bad, and the beautiful and the ugly, the terrorists and the non-terrorists, and the peaceful person.
I have not heard in the last few days or even weeks any address from this podium or other podiums to this issue of calling Israel to cease and desist these things, because they have really getting to people and their homes and everything, so why are you making a collective punishment and deprive the Palestinians of $6 million daily of income in that way?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think I'm going to allow my colleague, Nick Burns, to answer in any depth these questions that you want to ask.
But let me answer the question myself as well. I think the position that the Human Rights Reports this year and last year and the public statements that the United States has made about the need for full recognition of the rights of Palestinians is very clear. We have also chronicled in the report, I think, what is a significant improvement that has resulted from the peace process and its flowering, until the recent tragedies occurred. We hope that will continue -- recent improvements in human rights for Palestinian people, as well as all people in the region; the diminution of extrajudicial killings and torture and other abuses that have been chronicled in our reports.
We are going to continue to press for that, but this is -- the peace process itself and the growing autonomy for Palestinian authorities is precisely the means by which these human rights improvements can be brought about.
Q John, this exercise has become rather institutionalized now.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Q I don't know. It gives you a job, so it's probably a good thing.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I guess it's a good thing. (Laughter)
Q A lot of the information gathered in my experience tends to come press reports, public reports, NGO reports, and NGOs sometimes have axes to grind; sometimes they don't.
How much effort -- I know it's hard to say -- how much effort goes into actually checking the material that comes across the desk of officers who have lots of other things to do in embassies that are shrinking in size, and so on? How much is this a kind of compilation of what we already know? And how much is it a real result of real reporting by officers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: This is probably one of the most labor-intensive activities in the Department of State. Under the leadership of Secretary Christopher, the reports have grown in length and in complexity as well as in accuracy, I believe.
There is a tremendous amount of checking that is done. We're very open to all sources of information, including public sources. But in the event that it cannot be verified, the report will indicate that it can't be verified.
I don't think there is any other report on human rights in the world that is as comprehensive and carefully prepared as this one.
I asked you in jest whether you thought it was good that it was institutionalized or not. I think the process of injecting human rights issues into the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy has come directly through this reporting process that has now been going on for 20 years and which is reflected, I believe, in some of the most intensive activities that the U.S. has been involved in in foreign relations this year, particularly Bosnia, Haiti, and the other subjects that I talked about at the beginning of my comments.
Q In your report on FYROM, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, you are dealing with all types of minorities, including the Turkish one, but not the Greek one. Almost every year I am raising this issue. You are promising, as the Department of State, that you are look into that but no response so far.
I am wondering why, since there is a Greek minority, do you how large is the number and also the percentage?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I will have to get back to you on the numbers and percentage. But I can assure you that in our preparation of these reports, we are very careful to include all minorities who are in need of protection in any country. Sometimes it's difficult to get information.
I think you'll notice this year in our Cyprus report, we've gone out of our way to address, in more detail, the issue of the relationship between the legitimate authority on Cyprus and another authority on the island.
Q Could you elaborate on the case of Colombia where you say that the situation has not improved and there is conflict among security forces, guerrilla armies, and paramilitary units, and also narcotics traffickers?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think the report itself sets out in considerable detail that relationship. Let me say that the most staggering fact that is quite well documented with respect to criminal violations is that approximately 90 percent of all crimes go unprosecuted, according to data that's not only prepared by our report but comes from the Government of Colombia as well.
Q Given the economic ties produced by NAFTA and the decision by the Administration last week to certify Mexico, what can the Administration in the United States do to foster human rights improvements in Mexico?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The United States, of course, is a very close friend as well as a neighbor of Mexico. That means that we are in a position to constantly engage with Mexico in ways that may not be as possible in some other parts of the world on subjects like human rights.
Through our Embassy, and through constant missions -- not only the Embassy there, but that come from here at the State Department -- and other U.S. officials, the issues of human rights are raised.
The need for peaceful, negotiated settlements of conflicts, and particularly the serious situation in Chiapas, is a matter that has been repeatedly raised by the United States. We think that some of the recent developments in that area are positive and result from some of our engagements.
Q Would you be more specific about what the United States plans to do concerning China at the U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva starting in a few days?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: As you know, the U.N. Human Rights Commission is the one place in the United Nations where all human rights matters are brought up on an annual basis through elected members of the commission, and many resolutions are presented to the commission and then voted on.
The United States, as it did last year, is planning to co- sponsor a resolution on the human rights situation in China, together with the European Union and other countries. As you may recall, last year that resolution was also presented to the commission. China sought to block the commission's consideration of the resolution by a "no action" vote, and for the first time the commission rejected China's "no action" vote and proceeded to debate on the full resolution.
There's a very important issue of principle here, which is that all countries in the world should be equally subject to the international jurisdiction of the United Nations over human rights. Other countries -- be they the United States or Russia or other large countries -- have not sought to block consideration of human rights resolutions when brought before the commission.
That is why it is so important, what happened last year, that China for the first time was given a hearing on the resolution on human rights in China.
Q On the situation in East Timor, the report of '95 doesn't register any improvement since '91 nor in the attitude of Indonesia. Could you just elaborate a little on it, and could you comment on the meeting in Bangkok between the Portuguese Prime Minister and President Soeharto, if you see it as a hopeful sign to resolve that integration?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The issue of East Timor has been on the agenda of our country and many other countries for some time. I would actually say that the conclusion of our report is more subtle than you suggest. There continue to be abuses in East Timor, but there were for the first time this year -- I think as a result of strong engagement by the United States and other countries -- the prosecution of those soldiers who were responsible for several abuses that occurred -- disappearances and killings in the beginning of this year -- and a reduction, not as much as necessary, of the troop levels in East Timor.
This, I think, reflects the concerted effort of the international community, with the United States very much engaged with Indonesia, to address the human rights situation in East Timor. It continues to be a serious problem, and there continue to be major human rights abuses. But it is exactly what these reports and our process of working on these abuses is all about.
Q In the meeting between Soeharto and the Portuguese Prime Minister, did you see any --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Portugal has been very much involved in this. I think that was a positive development, and I can't tell you -- I think we'll have to look to see what further -- whether they be troop reductions or prosecutions of people responsible for human rights abuses -- occurs before we can assess that.
Q Secretary Shattuck, in 1995, people in this Department have made statements about Tunisia and Bahrain, which have basically given those two countries, where very serious human rights issues exist, a virtual clean bill of health. I would like to know if in 1996 you see any role for some public as well as perhaps private diplomacy in dealing with these two countries, and, if not, why not?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Again, I refer you to the reports, which I think are accurate and candid and chronicle abuses. In addition, we have meetings with those officials from those countries. There is no question that there are human rights problems of considerable dimension in both Tunisia and Bahrain, and I think the reports are very clear about that.
Q With regard to Latin America, there are some countries not in this pre-selected package. I'm interested about your comments about Peru and Brazil. Specifically in Brazil, recent reports were very critical about the situation of children, and in Peru about (inaudible) and in particular about the situation of an American citizen in jail in Peru.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think in the interests of keeping my comments brief on any given country, I will say that we have indicated that Peru has raised major human rights problems. I think the most serious that was noted in 1995 was the general amnesty that was forced very quickly through the parliament for human rights abuses of the past. We made our position very clear - - both publicly and privately, including from this podium and in discussions with the Government of Peru -- on the subject of the amnesty.
I'm not going to get into particular cases. In the situation in Brazil, I think the situation has improved; but the problems that plague Brazil of street children and the terrible abuses that they suffer need to be brought under control. The authorities need to stop these abuses from occurring. There are many thousands of street children, in particular, and also a situation involving indigenous peoples in the far reaches of Brazil that I think need closer attention.
Q According to the Washington Post's story today, you wrote to Secretary Christopher a memo some days ago suggesting that the Department should be ready to handle the fallout of these reports on a group of sensitive countries, and that list includes Turkey.
What do you expect the fallout of this report to be on Turkish-US relations? And in this context, based on the findings in this report, do you think the disputed Super Cobra copter sale should go through at this stage?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The relationship between Turkey and the United States is a strong one, based on the fact that Turkey is an ally of the United States, a member of NATO. Here again, I think our reports demonstrate that we will deal evenhandedly with all countries of the world -- friends and those who are not so friendly.
In the case of Turkey, we have raised human rights problems repeatedly, right at the Presidential level on down. I have made several trips to Turkey, and I think over the course of the last year we have seen some improvements. Certainly, the repeal of the most repressive legislation in the area of freedom of speech and freedom of the press, Article 8, was a very important development; and constitutional changes that occurred in Turkey allowed greater participation by some elements of the population that had previously not been able to participate in elections.
At the same time, in Turkey we continue to see a widespread use of torture, some extrajudicial killings -- although there were fewer in number of the so-called mystery killings this year -- and we have expressed our concern about the major abuses against civilians in the Kurdish southeast section of Turkey as Turkey has battled against terrorism in that area with the PKK.
The United States produced a report on arms sales and -- rather, the use of arms in Turkey to violate human rights last year. It was a candid report. We review all arms sales and arms transfers on a case-by-case basis, with human rights issues very central to our decision, so that we do not sell to allies materiel that clearly has been used and could be used for the violation of the rights of civilians. This is a matter that is well known. It's a worldwide policy that we have as well. It applies, for example, in Indonesia.
Q Thank you, Mr. Shattuck. I have a question on Bangladesh, on the Special Powers Act of 1974, which has been almost a threatening device to cut democracy to its minimum. Why do you think that this Act has not yet been reviewed by the government of Bangladesh or any government of Bangladesh since this Act has been enacted?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: You'll find reference to it in our report, and certainly it is our position that it should be repealed. I can't speculate on why it has not been. I mean, there are many repressive laws that plague the world, and this is certainly one example of them.
Q Mr. Shattuck, aside from Bosnia and Haiti, would you say that it was a good year for human rights, or did human rights stand still? And if I could just add a little bit to that. The world is getting very crowded, and the more crowded it gets, the more competition there is for resources, and it seems that we're getting closer to that age that Malvis predicted where people are going to fight with each other over resources.
In some of the countries where we've encouraged human rights, when they've had democratic elections, it's led to tremendous human rights violations. I could only cite Bosnia as one of the examples; but certainly many countries in Africa have retreated from the U.S. pushing them towards democracy because their culture is not ready for it, their political institutions, or whatever. So how do you see this thing progressing?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: That's a big question. I think if you look at 1995 in the context of the years preceding it, I think we have seen in this post-Cold War period a continued, steady progress toward greater recognition of the role of human rights in the world and more democracy. This has been particularly true, of course, in Eastern Europe and South Africa, in parts of Asia. The end of the Cold War, I think, has unleashed a powerful grass roots movement in country after country for greater political participation and more recognition of rights within those countries.
There are plenty of areas of resistance. Certainly authoritarian governments resist, and so do regimes that are falling apart or that are plagued by ethnic, racial and religious conflict. But I think if you look at Latin America as Secretary Christopher has just done in his opening remarks and you see the steady progress of democratic reform and more recognition of human rights, if you look at some of the countries in Africa where I think we've seen significant progress and contrast that with terrible situations -- such as Nigeria or Liberia or the Sudan -- I think you can count a slow progress.
Certainly, I don't want to stand here and say that there is an inexorable progress of human rights. It is a constant struggle, and it is a struggle not just by any means of governments and advocates such as myself, but a struggle of people who are doing everything they can to advance their cause, whether they be in prison -- as Wei Jingsheng is, for example, in China -- or whether they be on the ground trying to advance the cause of reform for human rights in their own countries.
Q I want to ask you, your report says that in some important areas at least human rights in China deteriorated in this past year. Now that human rights has been de-linked from some other parts of U.S. policy, what are the remaining tools -- the remaining carrots and sticks, if you will -- that you can use to try to nudge China towards treating its own people better?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: First, on the question of de-linkage, I think there is in fact a close linkage between human rights and all aspects of our relations with every country in the world, including particularly China, and that de-linkage is of a particular instrument -- that was MFN. The engagement that the United States has with China and with the people of China and those who are seeking to quietly and slowly change the situation in China I think is very clear.
The instruments are international, be they the U.N. Human Rights Commission, working with the private sector, who are very broadly engaged. As you know, the President has taken an initiative which our Bureau has very proudly worked with the Commerce Department and others to implement, and that is global business principles to get the international business community to support basic freedoms of speech and freedoms of association -- worker rights and against child labor -- in various settings in their world economic work.
At the same time, I think the spotlight that is put onto abuses by the issuance of the annual Human Rights Report is a very important element as well.
There are other aspects of our relationship, including continuing sanctions, of course, that have been imposed on China following the Tiananmen Square matter and other elements which I could go into, but in the interests of time I'd like to move on.
Q But could I ask, I mean, since the report does show some deterioration in the past year, is there any consideration being given to taking any steps to try to influence China's policy? Are there any arms sales, for example, or any trade arrangements that are being reconsidered?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think all of these relationships, of course, are dealt with between two great countries -- the United States and China -- within their own context. But let me say above all we do not believe that a strategy of isolating China is likely to enhance the human rights of Chinese citizens. Quite to the contrary. Broad engagement, not only at the governmental level but at the private level, and support for that engagement is very important, while at the same time making very clear that human rights abuses continue.
The most repressive periods in recent Chinese history have occurred in times of international isolation, and so isolation is by no means the answer to the problem of human rights abuse.
Q I'd like to consider another non-controversial subject. To sum up in terms of both the reaction of the Israeli authorities and the Palestinian Authority to the current bombings, are you saying that because of the realistic need to fight terror, some of the questions of human rights will have to be temporarily overshadowed in any sort of military or police actions to combat this threat of terror?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: No, I'm not saying that. I am saying, as I did in my last comment, that the pursuit of terrorists is a matter of high international importance, and the U.S. supports that effort. But that must be done consistent with the basic protection of the human rights of civilians in the whole region.
This is a dilemma that plagues all people and all issues of law enforcement. But the promotion of human rights and the protection of human rights must be brought about through the kind of structural peace process and the nurturing of new institutions, particularly in the new Palestinian Authority areas. And I might add that I hope in the near term to be able to travel to the region to work directly with those who are building institutions of justice and creating police agencies that are consistent with the promotion of human rights and chronicling abuses that have gone on.
The way we are going to ultimately succeed in these terrible situations is to build institutions that can contain them and stop the terrorism from occurring, consistent with the basic protection of human rights.
Q I'd like to return to this hemisphere and ask you to elaborate on two points: One, your concern about continued government impunity and its impact on human rights, both in Colombia and in Mexico, and also the need for countries such as Argentina, Chile and El Salvador to honestly reckon with their past before they can move further with democratization.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The problem of impunity has plagued many parts of the world. Certainly, nowhere perhaps more seriously in the recent past than Latin America.
Here, the United States is very actively involved with the countries of Latin America to build institutions of justice, to provide support for judicial reforms, for the kinds of institutions that can address and attack the problem of impunity.
In addition, we have supported new types of international institutions, Truth Commissions in El Salvador, and most recently in Haiti, that can address the terrible abuses that have occurred in the past by chronicling them and bringing to life the facts in question.
Finally, as you know, and as the Secretary alluded to in his comments, the United States is a very strong supporter of international justice, where appropriate, in War Crimes Tribunals; and ultimately, we hope to see brought about an international criminal court which can address the problem of impunity for human rights violations on a worldwide basis.
Q Countries in the ASEAN region have repeatedly said that the U.S. should not impose its human rights values on other countries and should de-link human rights from its trade policies. Could you comment on that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Human rights are universal. A person who is tortured or who is thrown in prison for speaking freely or for dissenting against his or her government, that person can be anywhere. Certainly, there should be no implication -- and I hope that's not the case -- that having human rights not be a universal value, which is something that we have heard from time to time from some ASEAN governments, should not suggest that the universality of the right to be free from torture and freedom of speech, etc. -- universality should be protected.
The United States works with the international community, with the nations of the ASEAN region, and very specifically with individual countries on human rights in their countries.
I should also add that one of the signal developments in the past year was that the United States presented the first report on the human rights in its own country to the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The issue of civil and political rights in the United States was subjected to the kind of criticism and critique that is entirely appropriate for any country. This is a very important moment, I think, in our own history.
Of course, the President has made the commitment to civil and political rights in the United States a major priority for his Administration.
Q This is Chung-soo Lee of Korean Broadcasting System. Your Human Rights Report mentioned that the basic human rights abuses in North Korea were recently driven by the food shortages. Do you think the U.S. Government needs to change the human rights policy towards North Korea concerning food shortages?
And have you found out any clue that cannibalism cases have0recently occurred in North Korea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: As you know, it's very difficult to gather information about North Korea and about the human rights situation there. Our report is too thin in that regard; but we have very few resources, or people who can provide that kind of information. So I don't have specifics.
I can tell you that certainly the United States is committed to the concept of humanitarian assistance where there is a genuine need. That, I think, is a position that we would take with almost any country in the world.
Q What about cannibalism?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: As I said, I don't have any information on that.
Q Can I ask you a general question? As a result of this annual review, do you advocate any changes in U.S. policies towards any countries in the world?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The whole purpose of this annual review and report is to provide information that then gets used in making U.S. policy. This is a constant and on-going process. I mentioned Nigeria, for example. The situation in recent months has deteriorated very seriously in Nigeria and has led to a strengthening, I think, of the U.S. efforts to secure change in Nigeria, working with other governments. That was the subject of a policy review that ultimately developed into spotlighting the situation of human rights in Nigeria. This is just one of many examples that I could cite throughout the report.
I'll take one more question.
Q Mr. Secretary, many in Congress have called for a re-linkage of MFN and human rights for exactly the same reasons -- you know, conditions that have been described in this report. How would you argue with them in the upcoming MFN battle?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: As I think I said earlier, the use of MFN as an instrument to change and improve human rights is not the position of this Administration. We think that there is little evidence that denying trade to China would lead to major improvements in human rights. In fact, it's possible that the contrary could occur.
We believe that economic growth and improvement in the lives of Chinese people is a very important precursor to further improvements in human rights. It is necessary to keep pressing on the human rights situation in China, as in other countries, through working with other governments, in the U.N. Human Rights Commission, by raising these issues with China, by honestly and directly reporting on them in our report, and keeping faith with those many millions of people in China who are seeking to improve the human rights situation, which is what we do.
-14- Wednesday, 3/6/96
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