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U.S. Department of State
95/10/17 Address: Madeleine Albright on Human Rights/Holocaust
Office of the US Mission to the United Nations
AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS
SYMPOSIUM ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE LESSONS OF THE HOLOCAUST
SENATOR THOMAS J. DODD RESEARCH CENTER
OCTOBER 17, 1995
It is a great pleasure to be here at the University of Connecticut--the
home of champions--of both genders.
This symposium and this research center are a great tribute to Senator
Thomas Dodd. And they reflect, as well, the values that Senator Chris
Dodd has brought to public service. The speakers from around the world
who have agreed to participate in this event provide further testimony
that, indeed, the Dodd family has served Connecticut, our nation and the
cause of humanity very very well.
Two days ago, President Clinton outlined America's ongoing commitment to
the principles of justice and human rights that were on trial in
Nuremburg, and our commitment to the protection and extension of freedom
in Haiti, and elsewhere, as a guarantor of those principles.
While trying not to go over the same ground, I will say a few words
about the Administration's approach to human rights, with special
attention to the requirements and standards of international law.
Certainly, a discussion of international law and human rights is timely.
We observe this year the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War
II, the founding of the United Nations and the beginning of the
Nuremburg trials. Like the leaders of a half century ago, we have been
witnesses to seismic political change. Like them, we have inherited an
unsettled world, beset by squabbles, unsatisfied ambitions and new
dangers. Like them, we have a responsibility to build the institutions
and strategies that will ensure security and defend freedom in a new and
Because we live in a country that is democratic, trade-oriented,
respectful of the law and possessed of a powerful military whose
personnel are precious to us, we will do better and feel safer in an
environment where our values are widely shared, markets are open,
military clashes are constrained and those who run roughshod over the
rights of others are brought to heel.
The United Nations is one means we use to create and sustain such an
environment. And one of our top priorities at the UN is to build
mechanisms that will contribute on a long term basis to human rights and
Accordingly, we were the prime movers behind the successful effort to
establish a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
We have worked to increase the budget and effectiveness of the UN Human
We have decided to seek Senate consent to the ratification of two
important human rights agreements--the Convention Prohibiting All Forms
of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the
We are principal supporters of the UN Voluntary Fund to aid the victims
And we have worked hard to maintain the integrity and increase the
application of one of the noble documents in human history--the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Eleanor Roosevelt, a great First Lady of the United States, had a
prominent role in drafting that Declaration. Americans have grounds for
pride that, last month in Beijing, our current First Lady eloquently
reaffirmed our nation's commitment to it.
Some had suggested that the First Lady's attendance at the Fourth World
Conference on Women would be viewed by the Chinese as acquiescence in
their human rights policies. It did not, of course, turn out that way.
Hillary Clinton has been an advocate for women's rights and children's
rights all her adult life. No one should have been surprised by the
message she delivered in Beijing.
That message was simple, but powerful:
Violence against women must stop;
Girls should be valued equally with boys;
Women should have equal access to education, health care and the
levers of economic and political power;
Family responsibilities should be shared; and
Freedom of expression is a prerequisite to human rights, which
include women's rights.
Although much was made of the venue, the fact is that both the First
Lady's speech and the one I made the next day would have conveyed this
same message if the Conference had been held in Malawi, Uzbekistan or
Staten Island. Ours was a universal message, directed not at China, in
particular, but at all countries.
The UN's Women's Conference produced a strong consensus document that
reflects our support for enabling women to participate as equals in the
political and economic life of every society. That consensus will serve
as a standard towards which each government should now strive, spurred
on by the network of nongovernmental organizations that was so effective
and so central to the discussions in Beijing.
In his remarks here Sunday, the President said that the effort to
support human rights requires profound change within societies--"and
that profound change is democracy." That is why the United States is
actively promoting the emergence of the United Nations as a force for
democracy around the world.
There was a time, not that long ago, when the UN General Assembly was
dominated and demeaned by rhetoric that disparaged democratic values.
Today's UN is helping new democracies to draft constitutions, enhance
judicial structures, train human rights officials and transform armed
movements into political parties. Within the past half decade, the UN
has played a key role in democratic transitions in places as diverse as
Cambodia, Namibia, El Salvador, South Africa, Haiti and Mozambique.
On a related matter, we have worked steadily with the UN and with other
countries to make UN peace operations more effective and successful.
The end of the Cold War made UN peacekeeping both more possible and more
necessary. As a result, the number and complexity of operations
expanded dramatically. Although there were successes, serious problems
arose in coordinating the military and humanitarian responses to complex
emergencies; resources were not always allocated efficiently; and
mandates were not always realistic.
There are some now, on Capitol Hill and elsewhere, who would respond to
these shortcomings by killing UN peacekeeping altogether. If this
destructive view should prevail, and peacekeepers are withdrawn, we
could expect wider war in the Balkans, higher tensions in tinderbox
regions such as Cyprus and the Middle East, a renewed threat to
democracy in Haiti and a further series of humanitarian disasters in
These consequences are not acceptable. UN peacekeeping should not be
killed; it should be strengthened. We are working with others to
increase training, improve management, reform procurement, provide
better coordination and see that the lessons of past successes and
failures are learned. We believe a special effort is needed to sharpen
the UN's capacity to respond rapidly to a crisis. Discipline is
required in establishing the scope and mandate of new operations. And
realism is essential in assessing what the UN can and cannot do.
UN peacekeeping cannot produce a perfect world, but it does contribute
to an environment that is less violent, more stable and more democratic
than it otherwise would be. It provides the President with an option
between unilateral action and standing aside when emergencies arise.
And it is an important tool for the enforcement of international
standards and law.
Another such tool is economic sanctions.
Since the end of the Persian Gulf war, strict economic and weapons
sanctions have been in place against Iraq. Their purpose is to prevent
that country from once again developing weapons of mass destruction or
threatening its neighbors with aggression.
The American position is that Iraq must comply, in full, with all
relevant UN Security Council resolutions before the Council should
consider easing or lifting the sanctions regime.
We do not wish to inflict pain on the population of Iraq. But so far,
Saddam Hussein has turned down proposals that would allow him to sell
oil to buy humanitarian supplies. His regime also continues to waste
huge sums building palaces and lavish infrastructure projects that
benefit a very few. Meanwhile, Iraq's compliance with the Security
Council resolutions remains sporadic, selective, and incomplete.
The United States believes that the burden of proof should be on Iraq to
demonstrate its peaceful intentions and that only a policy of firmness
has a realistic chance of altering Iraqi behavior for the better.
Saddam Hussein's complaints about the unfairness of all this reminds me
of the story about the schoolboy who came home with his face damaged and
his clothes torn. When his mother asked him how the fight started, he
said: "It started when the other guy hit me back."
Libya also is the subject of sanctions, because of its refusal to hand
over for trial the individuals indicted for the bombing of PAN AM 103 in
1988. Since that time, Libya has proposed a variety of schemes for a
trial; unfortunately, none of these ideas meet the standard set by the
Security Council, which is a trial either in the United Kingdom or the
United States. We have pushed hard to maintain sanctions to keep the
heat on the Qadhafi regime, and we would prefer stronger ones, including
an oil embargo, if the Libyans remain intransigent.
Haiti, like Iraq before Operation Desert Storm, illustrates both the
importance of sanctions as a sign of international resolve, and their
insufficiency, at times, in obtaining the results we want.
For three years, the Council and the Organization of American States
pursued a peaceful and just end to the Haitian crisis. The
international community tried condemnation, persuasion, isolation and
negotiation. At Governors Island, the military's leader signed an
agreement that would have allowed the restoration of the democratically-
elected government, but then refused to implement it. Sanctions were
imposed, suspended, re-imposed and finally strengthened. The
illegitimate leaders were given every opportunity to leave.
The decision to seek Council support for the restoration of democratic
rule to Haiti by force if necessary reflected the extraordinary set of
circumstances that existed: including the blatant illegitimacy of the de
facto leaders; the brutal repression; the violation of a UN-brokered
agreement; the risk of renewed attempts at flight by desperate people
aboard unseaworthy vessels; the expulsion of human rights monitors; the
insufficiency of sanctions; and the existence of strong support
regionally and overseas for decisive action.
By going to the Council, we strengthened our hand diplomatically;
reassured Haitians who were understandably ambivalent about the possible
presence of foreign troops on their soil; established a useful precedent
for monitoring by the UN of a coalition action; and paved the way for
the transition that has now occurred from the U.S.-led multinational
force to a UN force.
Last spring, I visited Haiti with President Clinton. As I looked at the
crowd cheering the President, I could not help but wonder what would
have happened if we had not acted. How many of those smiling people
would have ended up on tires or leaky rafts or boats headed in
desperation for our coasts?
Although obvious problems remain, it is equally obvious that an enormous
transformation is taking place. In the words of one student, "Elections
in this country have never been interesting before, but it looks like
there is a state of law now. We're at a turning point, it's the
beginning of democracy in Haiti (and) nothing will be the same."
In addition to peacekeeping and sanctions, a third tool used by the UN
to enforce international law flows directly from the precedent of
Nuremburg--the ad hoc tribunal for war crimes and other violations of
international humanitarian law.
There are two such tribunals--for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia. The
United States has done much to establish, organize, finance and assist
these tribunals, and I am pleased that we have had strong backing from
many in Congress including Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Sam
I need not go into detail before this audience about the suffering that
has been visited upon the people of the regions for which these
tribunals were created.
I can tell you that last year, in Croatia, I visited a farm in what was
once a pretty town called Vukovar. There, beneath a pile of rusted
refrigerators and scraps of farm equipment, is a shallow grave
containing the bodies of two to three hundred human beings.
These dead were not the victims of "heat of battle" violence; they were
not--in the terminology of the soldier--collateral damage. They were
men and women like you and me; boys and girls like those we know;
intentionally targeted and massacred not because of what they had done,
but for who they were.
There are those who ridicule the effort to prosecute those responsible
for such crimes; those who say that assembling the physical evidence,
apprehending suspects and obtaining credible testimony will be too
difficult, too time-consuming, too expensive.
But the Administration does not believe the difficulty of the Tribunals'
work should bar the attempt. Just because we cannot guarantee
everything does not mean we should do nothing.
More that 20 indictments already have been handed down by the Yugoslav
tribunal and 200 alleged perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide are under
investigation. Governments will be obliged to hand over for trial those
indicted who are within their jurisdiction. The Tribunals are empowered
to request the Security Council to take enforcement action against any
government that fails to do so. The indicted, themselves, will face the
choice of standing trial or becoming international pariahs, trapped
within the borders of their own lands, subject to immediate arrest
should they leave.
The United States agrees with the tribunals' prosecutor, Judge
Goldstone, that suspects should be pursued regardless of rank, position,
or stature. There is not, and there should never be, a statute of
limitations on the force and effect of the tribunals' indictments.
Further, we do not accept the view that the killings in Rwanda and the
Balkans can simply be shrugged off as the inevitable side-effects of
ethnic conflict. How could we? We remember that Adolf Hitler once
defended his plan to kill Jews by asking the rhetorical question: "Who,
after all, remembers the Armenians?" And we recall the words written in
1940 by the poet and essayist Archibald MacLeish:
Murder is not absolved of immorality by committing murder. Murder is
absolved of immorality by bringing men to think that murder is not evil.
This only the perversion of the mind can bring about. And the
perversion of the mind is only possible when those who should be heard
in its defense are silent...
Establishing the truth about what happened in Rwanda and the Balkans is
essential not only to justice, but to peace. Responsibility for the
atrocities committed does not rest with the Serbs or Hutus or any other
people as a group; it rests with the individuals who ordered and
committed the crimes. And true reconciliation will not be possible in
these societies until the perception of collective guilt is expunged and
personal responsibility is assigned.
I should point out, in addition, that those who suggested that
indictment of Bosnian Serb leaders would make it impossible to negotiate
peace have been proven wrong. Instead, the indictments have contributed
to divisions within that leadership, thereby weakening the hardest
liners and making progress towards peace easier to achieve.
Delivering international justice is a job governments alone cannot
always do. Institutions like the Dodd Research Center can play a vital
role by helping to inform and shape public opinion, and by drawing
historical connections between the tasks we face and those confronted by
The legal profession is also tested. The American Bar Association's
Coalition for International Justice is one example of how lawyers have
mobilized to support the war crimes tribunals. Some of those most
involved are children of participants in the Nuremburg and Tokyo
prosecutions. The new generation has not dropped the baton.
Behind our commitment to make the War Crimes Tribunals succeed; behind
our support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and behind
the establishment of the Thomas Dodd Research Center, there exists a
unifying premise--every individual counts. That is the philosophy of
America at its best. And that is the philosophy of many of the speakers
who have addressed this symposium.
This view is not based on any illusions about the perfectibility of
human character. No one who has studied the Holocaust, or paid heed to
the events in the Balkans, or observed the rivalries in central Africa,
would indulge in sentimentalism. But we live in a nation and a world
that has been enriched immeasurably by the survivors, by those who have
escaped concentration camps, political prisons, war, and repression to
rebuild their lives; by those who have an especially profound
understanding of human rights because their experience forbids them from
taking human rights for granted.
A little more than fifty years ago, an editorial in one of our national
newsweeklies made this point:
The ideology of a nation in its internal life is a concern to the
international community. To reject this principle is...to maintain that
the violation of (human)...rights...by...(a) government has no relation
to world peace.
The week these words were written, American soldiers found 1800 naked
corpses stacked like cordwood alongside an incinerator; silent witnesses
to the liberation of Buchenwald.
Clearly, it was not enough to say, after World War II, that the enemy
had been vanquished--that what we were against had failed. We had to
build the foundation of a lasting peace. And together, the generation
of Truman and Marshall and Eisenhower and Vandenberg designed a
framework of law, principle, power and purpose that would one day defeat
Communism and promote democratic values and respect for human rights
around the world.
Today, we are called upon to develop a new framework for protecting our
territory, our people and our interests. In devising that framework, we
will build on the firm foundation provided by the UN Charter and other
sources of international law. We will seek to extend the sway of civil
society; to codify new standards; and to summon the will to enforce with
greater consistency and effectiveness standards long established.
It has been said that all work that it is worth anything is done in
faith. Let us all keep the faith that each time a person speaks out in
defense of human rights; each time a political prisoner is freed; each
time a barrier to justice is brought down, it will inspire others and
explode outwards the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.
Thank you all very much.
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