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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 
                            STORRS, CONNECTICUT 
                             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 
transformed era.   
 
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 
peace. 
 
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 
Rights Center. 
 
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 
Child. 
 
We are principal supporters of the UN Voluntary Fund to aid the victims 
of torture. 
 
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 
Africa. 
 
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 
Gejdenson. 
 
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 
our predecessors.   
 
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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