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U.S. Department of State

Overview of Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1994

Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 1995.

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OVERVIEW

THE GLOBAL STRUCTURE OF HUMAN RIGHTS

TITLE:  OVERVIEW OF HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995


                            OVERVIEW


The Changing Nature of Human Rights Problems

During the Cold War, threats to human rights were seen as 
coming primarily from centralized authorities--strong 
governments ruling with an iron hand.  In response, the human 
rights community developed the forms of advocacy with which we 
are now familiar--monitoring, reporting, publicizing cases, 
advocacy on behalf of individual victims of human rights abuse, 
and advocacy of sanctions against strong governments.

Today, in the post-Cold War world, much has changed.  Human 
rights abuses are still committed by strong central 
governments.  But we have become all too familiar with abuses 
in countries with weak or unresponsive governments, committed 
by ethnic, religious, and separatist extremists, as well as 
governments themselves, and in extreme cases fanned into 
genocide by cynical political leaders, and made harder to 
resist by enormous economic, environmental, and demographic 
pressures.  These conflicts present us with a devastating array 
of new human rights problems.

At the same time, the post-Cold War environment offers 
opportunities for structural change both within countries and 
in the international community that could give internationally 
recognized human rights greater force than ever before.  This 
is due in large part to the fall of Soviet Communism, but also 
to a powerful global movement for human rights and democratic 
participation.  This movement has been under way for some two 
decades.  The past 5 years have been especially dramatic, 
changing the political face of many parts of the world, from 
the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to South Africa, 
Zambia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Chile, Mongolia, and elsewhere.

The movement for human rights and democracy is even beginning 
to show strength in diverse and unlikely places.  As the 1993 
U.N. World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna dramatically 
demonstrated, this global movement is among the strongest 
grassroots forces in the world today.  Increasingly assertive 
and effective indigenous forces are pressing worldwide for 
government transparency and accountability, for basic 
democratic freedoms, and for internationally recognized human 
rights.

All this is taking place at a time when states are engaging 
with each other in a growing range of challenges that transcend 
national borders--trade, the environment, security, population, 
migration--issues that are creating powerful forces of 
integration in some cases and increasing conflict in others.

In this new multipolar world, the traditional human rights 
"sticks" of sanctions and other punitive measures directed 
against abusive regimes still have an important role to play.  
But sanctions need to be complemented by broader means of 
promoting human rights in countries that are in the midst of 
wrenching change, and as a consequence are often mired in 
internal conflict.

In short, with the passing of the Cold War we find ourselves in 
a new international strategic environment.  The human rights 
abuses of governments are accompanied by ethnic tension, 
breakdown of authority, and environmental destruction.  As a 
result, human rights promotion must synthesize familiar forms 
of pressure and advocacy with long-term structural reform and 
the support of grassroots movements for change.

Indeed, we see a growing emphasis on multilateral action to 
support these movements:  First, through negotiated settlements 
of conflict, which often include provisions for internationally 
supported democratic elections; second, through institutions of 
accountability for human rights abuses such as war crimes 
tribunals, truth commissions, and judicial assistance programs; 
and third, through scores of peacekeeping operations and 
humanitarian assistance programs.

Institutions of Accountability

The appalling slaughter in Rwanda and the "ethnic cleansing" in 
the former Yugoslavia have cast into high relief the new human 
rights problems of our age.  These catastrophes have urgently 
demonstrated the need to develop a spectrum of institutions 
that will hold political leaders accountable to their 
constituents and to the international community as a whole.

The mass murders in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia did not 
arise spontaneously.  They were fomented by persons who sought 
to gain political ends through these violent and hideous 
means.  Unless those persons are called to account for 
genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, justice will 
not be served, and reconciliation and reconstruction will not 
be possible.  This is why the United States supported the U.N. 
Security Council's creation of war crimes tribunals for the 
former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

The tribunals are also necessary to lift the burden of 
collective guilt that settles on any society whose leaders have 
directed such terrible violence.  The assignment of 
responsibility enables the international community to 
differentiate between victims and aggressors, and it helps 
expunge the cynical illusion that conflicts with an ethnic 
dimension are hopelessly complex and therefore insoluble.  
Moreover, the tribunals are essential if future crimes are to 
be deterred.  If basic human rights can be massively violated 
with impunity in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the world is 
fair game for every conceivable form of terror.

In addition to war crimes tribunals, a spectrum of institutions 
of accountability have contributed to reconciliation in a 
number of countries.  The Truth Commissions of Nicaragua, El 
Salvador, and Haiti, the U.N. Verification Mission in 
Guatemala, and the National Human Rights Commissions 
established in India and Mexico represent new and diverse ways 
of providing accountability for human rights abuses.  
Accountability is also being furthered in a number of countries 
by assistance programs aimed at developing the administration 
of justice and the rule of law.  For example, the recently 
established U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights placed 
human rights monitors in Rwanda and is planning to work with 
the U.S. and other countries to help rebuild the Rwandan legal 
system.

Armed Conflict

Around the world, a number of hard-fought conflicts have moved 
toward long-sought resolution.  A cease-fire was negotiated in 
Northern Ireland and is holding, despite several incidents 
which could have led to renewed violence.  Despite increasing 
violence and terror, Israel and the Palestine Liberation 
Organization began to implement their Declaration of Principles 
through their agreement on the Gaza and Jericho areas.  We also 
witnessed the beginnings of Palestinian self-government in 
these areas.  For the first time, this human rights report will 
examine Palestinian human rights practices in areas under 
Palestinian jurisdiction.  Israel and Jordan signed a treaty 
formally establishing peace.  In Mozambique, a U.N.-negotiated 
peace accord led ultimately to elections and the installation 
of a new government.  And in El Salvador, the U.N.-sponsored 
peace accord moved closer to full implementation with the 
dissolution of the former National Police and creation of a new 
civilian police force.

Even so, armed conflict continued to generate significant human 
rights abuse, most visibly in Rwanda and in the former 
Yugoslavia, but in many other places as well.

To prevent Chechnya's secession from Russia, Russian troops 
crossed into Chechnya on December 11, 1994.  This action 
included massive aerial and artillery bombardment of civilian 
areas in Chechnya's capital, Grozny, resulting in a major 
humanitarian and human rights crisis.

In Angola, the bloody civil war which erupted anew after the 
failed 1993 election, raged throughout much of 1994, with 
perhaps 100,000 dead, mostly civilians.

Guerrilla violence and military actions continued to give 
Colombia one of the highest violent death rates in the world.

The Turkish Government's continued armed struggle against the 
terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party (or PKK) has resulted in 
violence against civilians and abuses of rights within Turkey, 
including the arrest and trial of Turkish parliamentarians and 
many other citizens for expressing their views, while the 
widespread use of torture in prisons and detention facilities 
has continued with impunity.

Since 1992 Algeria has been embroiled in civil strife, pitting 
armed Islamist groups and their sympathizers against the 
Government, with killings and other human rights abuses on both 
sides.

The dismal human rights situation in the Sudan further 
deteriorated in the face of intensified civil war, as both the 
Government and insurgents engaged in massacres, extrajudicial 
killings, kidnapings, forced conscriptions, and the obstruction 
of humanitarian aid.

Much of Kabul was destroyed as the Afghan civil war was renewed 
in early 1994.  The Red Cross estimated from its clinical 
records that 34,000 civilians were killed or wounded in street 
fighting and heavy weapons attacks on Kabul alone.  Over 1 
million more Afghans were displaced by the fighting.

Torture, Arbitrary Detention, Impunity of Abusers

Flagrant and systematic abuses of basic human rights continued 
at the hand of the world's authoritarian and repressive 
regimes, such as China, Iraq, Iran, Burma, North Korea, and 
Cuba.  In those and other countries, denial of basic freedoms 
of expression, association, and religion, persecution of 
minorities, and the suppression of civil society remain the 
norm.

In a departure from a recent trend toward openness, the 
Indonesian Government revoked the licenses of three prominent 
publications.  Security forces serving in East Timor and 
elsewhere continued to be responsible for significant abuses, 
and the Government prepared a draft decree which, if 
implemented, could severely curtail the activities of many 
Indonesian nongovernmental organizations.

Nigeria's military regime, which annulled that country's 1993 
elections, continued to crack down on the opposition, despite a 
massive strike by the labor force.  The regime killed and 
wounded protesters, employed arbitrary detention and mass 
arrest, perpetrated extrajudicial killings and torture, and 
engaged in other abuses.

In Saudi Arabia abuses including torture, incommunicado 
detention, restrictions on freedom of speech and religion, 
suppression of ethnic and religious minorities, and pervasive 
discrimination against women continued.

In several less thoroughly repressive countries, including some 
with functioning democratic institutions, significant human 
rights abuses occurred.

The Government of Singapore continued to intimidate opposition 
parties and their leaders and regularly restrict freedoms of 
speech, association, and assembly.

In Egypt, the Government's security services and terrorist 
groups remained locked in a cycle of violence; and there 
continued to be widespread human rights violations.

India has a longstanding democracy with a free press, 
independent judiciary, and active political and civic life.  
Nonetheless, significant human rights abuses are committed by 
military and security forces in areas of unrest, particularly 
Kashmir.  These include extrajudicial killings and other 
political killings; torture, deaths in custody; and violence 
against women.

Despite the inauguration of a former human rights ombudsman as 
President in 1993, the human rights situation in Guatemala 
remained troubling, with both sides in the civil war committing 
major violations, including extrajudicial killing, kidnaping, 
and torture.

Economics and Human Rights

An increasingly important issue placed squarely in the public 
eye in 1994 was the relationship between economic development 
and trade on the one hand, and the promotion of human rights 
and democracy on the other.  This was most vividly the case 
with regard to the U.S. decision to delink China's Most Favored 
Nation status from China's human rights performance.

The relationship between trade and human rights has taken on 
special salience as extensive networks of international trade 
have emerged, and as nations have lifted trade barriers that 
have inhibited full exchange among their peoples.  The 
suggestion in some quarters that there is an inescapable 
trade-off between economic development and human rights 
promotion is ultimately false.

It is precisely because the United States has an interest in 
economic development, political stability, and conflict 
resolution around the world that it promotes human rights and 
accountable government.  As President Clinton said last 
November on the eve of his departure for Southeast Asia, "In 
societies where the rule of law prevails, where governments are 
held accountable to their people and where ideas and 
information freely circulate, we are more likely to find 
economic development and political stability."  And as we have 
seen in nations undergoing economic transformation, market 
reformers who enjoy popular legitimacy are more likely to win 
popular support for tough economic choices.  Trade relations by 
themselves are no substitute for vigorous human rights 
advocacy.  Moreover, as the world trading system grows 
increasingly robust, care must be taken to incorporate the 
promotion of worker rights into bilateral and multilateral 
trade agreements.

Economic growth, trade, and social mobility may not be 
sufficient conditions for political pluralism, but they do 
create powerful pressures for political change.  Open trade can 
support the movement toward freedom by strengthening 
independent institutions of civil society, by exposing isolated 
nations to the possibility of other ways of life, and because 
of the inescapable truth that free and open markets can only be 
meaningfully sustained over the long haul by open societies 
that respect basic rights and the rule of law.

Worker Rights

With the expansion of global trade, worker rights take on 
renewed urgency.  The new World Trade Organization will have to 
face the effects of worker rights on trade.

The universal right most pertinent to the workplace is freedom 
of association, which is the foundation on which workers can 
form and organize trade unions, bargain collectively, press 
grievances, and protect themselves from unsafe working 
conditions.  In many countries, workers have far to go in 
realizing their rights.  Restrictions on workers range from 
outright state control of all forms of worker organization to 
webs of legislation whose complexity is meant to overwhelm and 
disarm workers.

In 1994 we continued to see practices of forced and bonded 
labor and child labor in a number of places.  In Burma citizens 
are taken off the streets and pressed into slave labor.  Small 
children work on carpet looms, in garment factories, and myriad 
other occupations in India, Pakistan, and in dozens of other 
countries around the world.  Trade unions are banned outright 
in a number of countries, including several in the Middle East, 
and in many more there is little protection of worker efforts 
to organize and bargain collectively.  Some protesting workers 
have paid with their lives; others, most notably in China and 
Indonesia, have gone to jail simply for trying to inform fellow 
workers of their rights.  We also see inadequate enforcement of 
labor legislation, especially with regard to health and safety 
in the workplace.

Democracy

Democracy is by definition a system which provides for the 
participation of ordinary citizens in governing their country, 
and depends for its success on the growth of democratic culture 
along with democratic institutions.  Elections are one 
essential dimension of participation and accountability.  
Democracy's most stirring triumphs of the year were Nelson 
Mandela's election as President in South Africa and the 
restoration of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the 
democratically elected Government of Haiti.

In South Africa, concerted efforts by all sides eventually 
brought all parties into the political process, resulting in 
profound structural change that has ended institutional 
apartheid and sharply decreased the violence it engendered.  In 
Haiti, President Aristide was peacefully returned to power 
through U.S. leadership and the international community's 
resolute stand against the violent usurpers who had deposed him 
and perpetrated massive human rights abuses on the people.

Away from the headlines, democracy has also made strides in 
little-noticed places:

In Malawi, voters defeated former President-for-Life H. Kamuzu 
Banda in free elections in May.

The countries of the former Soviet bloc continued their halting 
transitions from closed to open societies.  The newly 
independent states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and 
Uzbekistan held elections with varying degrees of freedom and 
fairness and in the shadow of continuing significant human 
rights abuse.  The picture was brighter in the countries of 
Central Europe, though dimmed in some places by disturbing 
encroachments on freedom of speech and the press.

Democracy is not a one-time event but a process of governance 
and of history.  As President Aristide said upon his return to 
Haiti, "The true test of a democracy is its second free 
election when power is transferred freely and 
constitutionally."  These important milestones in democratic 
development were passed in a number of countries.

Several Latin American countries such as Uruguay, Chile, and 
Brazil, which were formerly ruled by the military, held new 
rounds of elections and inaugurated new presidents in 1994, 
further consolidating their democracies.

After Nepal's second parliamentary election since its 
democratic revolution in 1990, an opposition party formed a 
coalition government and peacefully assumed power.

There were significant setbacks for democracy as well.  The 
long-delayed return of democracy to Nigeria was again blocked 
by a military dictatorship's refusal to accept the outcome of 
elections.  In Gambia, the military overthrew the elected 
civilian Government.  In Burma, the military regime continued 
its refusal to abide by the results of the 1990 elections, 
keeping Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi under house 
arrest and silencing all opposition.

Civilian Control of the Military and Law Enforcement

As countries make the transition from authoritarian government 
to open societies, few issues become more crucial than the 
civilian control of the military and law enforcement 
authorities.  Indeed, in many countries, human rights abuses 
and democratic setbacks resulted from the inability of civilian 
authorities to control armed forces and security services.  In 
other countries, there were examples of progress.

In Argentina the Senate rejected the promotion of two navy 
commanders because of their admitted role in torture during the 
years of military rule.  In Guatemala, the Congress held 
hearings on the killing of a student by security forces during 
rioting in November, marking a step forward in congressional 
oversight.

In Sri Lanka, the Government set up regional commissions to 
investigate allegations of disappearances and began prosecution 
proceedings against accused extrajudicial killers.

While members of Colombia's security forces and guerrilla 
groups continue to commit serious human rights abuses, the new 
administration has taken a number of steps aimed at reducing 
the incidence of official abuses and punishing those who commit 
them.

In Nigeria, on the other hand, the military regime that seized 
power after annulling the free and fair elections of 1993 
continued to ride roughshod over the opposition and ruin hopes 
for political or economic progress.

Rights of Women

This year saw an increased international focus on women's human 
rights and the advancement of the status of women.  The 
International Conference on Population and Development, held in 
Cairo in September 1994, the World Summit for Social 
Development, to take place in Copenhagen in March 1995, and the 
Fourth World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing in 
September 1995 encourage greater attention to and understanding 
of human rights abuses against women.  Unfortunately, such 
abuses persisted in 1994.

Of particular concern is the problem of violence against 
women.  In early 1994, the U.N. Human Rights Commission 
established a Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to 
examine its causes and consequences.  The 1994 Human Rights 
Reports document that physical abuse of women, including 
torture, systematic rape, female genital mutilation, domestic 
violence, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation and 
trafficking of women, and female feticide continued throughout 
the world.

In addition to physical abuse, the political, civil and legal 
rights of women continue to be denied.  In 1994 women in many 
countries were subjected to discriminatory restrictions of 
their fundamental freedoms regarding voting, marriage, travel, 
property ownership and inheritance, custody of children, 
citizenship, and court testimony.  Women also faced sex-based 
discrimination in access to education, employment, health care, 
financial services including credit, and even food and water.

Looking Forward

The emergence of nongovernmental human rights organizations 
around the world is one of the most hopeful and arresting 
developments of the post-Cold War era.  These organizations 
hold the key to the future if nations are to begin to hold each 
other accountable for human rights abuse.  They have an 
especially vital role to play in the growth of human rights and 
democracy, precisely because they arise in, and reflect, the 
unique features of their respective societies.  With the 
changing times, grassroots groups have taken on new roles, such 
as election monitoring, active negotiation as part of 
democratic transitions, serving as ombudsmen, and creating 
institutions of accountability and reconciliation.

Human rights violations span the globe, and no region has a 
monopoly on abuses.

The drive for realization of basic rights is a universal 
work-in-progress, and the story is not always grim.  My 
counterpart in the Russian Government, Vyacheslav Bakhmin, was 
a Soviet prisoner of conscience on whose behalf I once 
campaigned.  He, like other human rights activists in scores of 
countries, risked their lives to bear witness, and are now 
using their freedom to reform and rebuild their societies.

One of those activists-turned-leaders, Vaclav Havel, has 
powerfully expressed what it means to make a commitment to 
human rights in this complex new world, where the triumph of 
freedom can so quickly be overshadowed by the horror of 
genocide, where the inauguration of Nelson Mandela can take 
place in the same month as the mass murders of Tutsis in Rwanda:

"I am not an optimist because I am not sure that everything 
ends well.  Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure 
everything ends badly.  Instead, I am a realist who carries 
hope, and hope is the belief that freedom and justice have 
meaning...and that liberty is always worth the struggle."


                                       John Shattuck
                                       Assistant Secretary for
                                       Democracy, Human Rights 
                                       and Labor

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[end of document]

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