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U.S. Department of State
95/11/28 Statement: Madeleine Albright on Human Rights
Office of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations
FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY USUN PRESS RELEASE #218-(95)
CHECK TEXT AGAINST DELIVERY NOVEMBER 28, 1995
Statement by Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, United States Permanent
Representative to the United Nations, on Human Rights Situations and
Reports, in the Third Committee, November 28, 1995
Mr. Chairman, we celebrate this year the fiftieth anniversary of
the United Nations and of the Charter upon which it is based. Under
that Charter, each nation affirms its "faith in fundamental human
rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, (and) in the equal
rights of men and women."
In so doing, each nation assumes an obligation not to deprive
those within its jurisdiction of these fundamental rights, whether in
law, policy or practice. The Charter admits no exceptions. There are
no grounds of history, culture, economic condition or sovereign
prerogative that excuse or permit the theft of human dignity.
As members of this organization, our governments have acknowledged
the universal and inalienable nature of human rights. But, the exercise
of these rights is not possible in the absence of political freedom.
As the Universal Declaration stipulates, "the will of the people
shall be the basis of the authority of government; this shall be
expressed in periodic and genuine elections, which shall be by universal
and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote."
My government has made the point for many decades in many forums
that democratic practices not only protect individuals, but spur
economic and social progress. People who are free to think, to exchange
ideas and to invest their own energies and capital will contribute more
to a society than those stunted by repression. The power of this
argument, and its truth, are on display today in emerging democracies
around the world.
Unfortunately, this democratic trend, although widespread, is not
universal. Many governments continue to rely not on the consent of the
governed for their authority, but on coercion. Burma is one example.
Here, the current governing authorities face an historic choice
between the continued denial of fundamental rights and movement towards
democracy. It is encouraging that the government expresses a desire for
international respect, foreign investment, tourism and democratic
reform. It is encouraging that the government has, this past year,
released a number of political prisoners, including Nobel prize-winner
and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
It is, however, very discouraging that the government has failed,
thus far, to begin a serious political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi
and other representatives of the democratic movement and ethnic groups.
It is discouraging that the National Convention called to draft a new
constitution is not representative of the Burmese people. And it is
discouraging that the government has done so little to lift the cloud of
fear and repression caused by its past and current policies towards
political and social freedom.
This year, my government will urge the General Assembly to re-
state, in clear and compelling terms, its support for democracy and
respect for internationally-recognized human rights in Burma. The
Assembly should call for the release of the remaining political
prisoners, for an end to torture, for an end to forced labor and forced
porterage and for an end to disappearances and killings of civilians by
The Government of Burma has a choice. And the international
community has a choice. We must choose to encourage Burma to choose
wisely: to reject the easy, but ultimately disastrous, path of the
status quo, and to move towards democracy.
The release of Aung San Suu Kyi provides at least the hope that in
Burma--with sufficient international interest and support--the human
rights situation will improve. In Iraq, it is far harder to find
grounds for hope. The policies of Saddam Hussein are unchanged; his
abuses against the Iraqi people continue and so do his lies to the
For years, the Iraqis denied that they ever possessed a program to
produce biological warfare agents. This year, we learned that they had
produced enough anthrax and botulinin to kill every man, woman and child
on earth--and that, prior to the Persian Gulf War, they had placed those
deadly poisons in artillery shells. One of the great services the UN
can perform on behalf of human rights is to ensure that Iraq is never
again permitted to build weapons of mass destruction.
The lawlessness of the regime in Baghdad has claimed the lives of
many abroad, but its more recent victims have been closer to home.
While Saddam Hussein squanders his resources on palaces for himself and
his cronies, the Iraqi people suffer.
Iraq's regime has rejected Security Council resolutions
specifically designed to allow the purchase of humanitarian goods. It
continues to jail, torture and execute dissidents and those thought to
harbor dissenting thoughts. In the north, it continues to block relief
shipments. In the south, it has destroyed ninety percent of the marshes
and killed or forced into exile 80% of the population. And, in a failed
effort to hide its abysmal record from the world, it continues to deny
permission to visit to the UN Commission's Special Rapporteur.
Iraq knows what it must do to re-enter the community of civilized
nations. It must comply with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions,
including Resolution 688, and halt the repression of its own people.
Iraq is not alone in its region as a consistent and gross violator
of internationally recognized human rights. For years, Iran has caused
similar concerns. Tehran's effort to cover up has not obscured repeated
instances of torture, summary execution, arbitrary detention,
unexplained disappearances, absence of due process, and suppression of
civil liberties and religious freedom. In addition, the UN's Special
Representative on Human Rights in Iran has not been allowed to visit
The United States calls upon Iran to end its repression of the
Iranian people, and to permit a visit by the new UN Special
Elsewhere around the world, the United States remains concerned
about the lack of democracy and respect for internationally recognized
human rights in a number of countries, including Cuba. Today, the
Castro regime is the only government in the western hemisphere that
denies its citizens basic freedoms of association and speech. Here,
political prisoners are still held; opposition political activity is
still banned; independent organizations are still harassed and Cubans
remain subject to detention without cause.
UN High Commissioner Ayala Lasso visited Cuba last year, but that
visit has not led to any overall improvements in human rights. In
April, a military tribunal sentenced human rights leader Francisco
Chaviano to 15 years in jail on trumped-up charges. And Cuba continues
to deny entry to a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights.
For Cuba to prosper and grow, true political reform is required.
For that to happen, a fundamental change is needed in the attitude of
the government towards human and political rights. My government would
welcome such a change.
We call upon Cuba to recognize the right of political parties and
independent labor unions to organize; to permit freedom of assembly and
freedom of speech; to respect due process; to allow national and
international humanitarian groups to inspect prison conditions; and to
allow the UN Special Rapporteur to visit.
Nigeria is another country where a fundamental change in the
attitude of the government towards human rights is needed. The
execution on November 10 of environmental and human rights activist Ken
Saro-Wiwa and eight others was a lawless act, masquerading as an act of
law, by a regime that misunderstands the very purpose of law. The
victims were tried outside the regular court system; they did not have
adequate access to counsel; and they were denied the elementary rights
of due process.
Although these executions attracted unusual publicity, they were
not--in today's Nigeria--unusual events. Past governments led Nigeria
to international prominence and garnered for their country the respect
of the region and the world. This government is unwilling to meet that
Instead of respecting the Nigerian people, the government engages
in a full range of abuses, including arbitrary detention, torture, the
harassment of human rights monitors, a ban on opposition political
activity and restrictions on free speech and association. The
government also has systematically undermined the credibility, fairness
and effectiveness of the Nigerian judiciary.
My government calls upon the Government of Nigeria to restore
civilian democratic rule promptly and to demonstrate respect for human
rights by releasing political prisoners, re-instituting habeus corpus,
lifting restrictions on political activity, and guaranteeing freedom of
expression and association. Nigerians deserve a government equal to the
demands of national growth and international leadership, and they
deserve it now.
The Government of Sudan remains an egregious violator of
internationally recognized human rights.
Over the past year, we have seen increasing reports of slavery and
forced labor of women and children belonging to racial, ethnic and
religious minorities. We have information that atrocities against
indigenous peoples have intensified. We know of indiscriminate aerial
bombardments against civilian targets. We learn of unaccompanied minors
being conscripted into military service. And we hear nothing of
investigations--for which my government today re-iterates its request--
into the killings of Sudanese nationals employed by foreign relief
organizations and governments.
The only silver lining in the very dark cloud of Sudan's human
rights record was the release in August of a number of political
prisoners; and the government's announced intention to proceed next year
with free elections.
The civil war in Sudan has been an ongoing tragedy, in which none
of the factions has taken seriously the basic human rights of the
Sudanese people. The time has come for the government and for
opposition political leaders to resolve their differences on the basis
of dialogue, democracy and decency. The international community will
help them if they do; we will continue to condemn if they do not.
The Chinese government's human rights practices have long been of
concern to the United States, particularly actions restraining the
peaceful expression of dissenting political, social and religious views.
These rights are enumerated specifically in the Universal Declaration.
In this respect, many Americans are profoundly concerned by the recent
formal arrest of the well-known and long-detained dissident Wei
We look to the Chinese government to take specific steps to
conform to international human rights norms, including releasing persons
detained solely for the peaceful expression of their opinions and
preserving the unique cultural, linguistic and religious heritage of
Human rights issues have properly been the subject of continuing
formal and informal bilateral exchanges between my government and that
of China. Although the dialogue has been interrupted, we hope that it
will soon resume in light of recent conversations between our two
Mr. Chairman, in recent years, what has been referred to
historically as the "nationalities problem" has re-emerged in numerous
areas around the world. The exploitation of ethnic and nationalist
passions has produced bloody conflict in Bosnia, Rwanda, Liberia, the
Caucasus and elsewhere. Frequently, the victims of such conflicts are
not those trained and prepared for war, but rather men and women, girls
and boys, abused not for what they have done, but for who they are.
In Rwanda and Burundi, diplomatic efforts are underway to prevent
renewed ethnic conflict. Success will depend partly on the willingness
of the governments involved to balance security needs with respect for
human rights and dialogue. It depends, as well, on whether factional
leaders and populations generally reject violence as the dead end that
it is and make a good faith effort to resolve disputes by peaceful
In former Yugoslavia, a breakthrough has occurred. If
implemented, the peace agreement initialed last week will bring an end
to the worst abuses of human rights seen on the continent of Europe
since the end of the second World War.
Under the agreement, the rights of the people of Bosnia and
Herzegovina would be recognized by the Constitution and safeguarded by a
human rights Ombudsman and a special human rights court. Those held in
prisons or labor camps for reasons related to the conflict are to be
released. All parties agree to cooperate with the International Red
Cross, United Nations agencies and human rights monitoring
organizations. A Commission for Refugees and Displaced Persons will be
created to settle disputes resulting from dislocations caused by war.
And each party is obliged to cooperate fully with the international
investigation and prosecution of war crimes.
Mr. Chairman, twice this century, the curse of global war has
descended upon us as a direct consequence of nationalist excess and
factional hate. Today, there is no greater force for instability, and
no greater cause of violations of human rights, than ethnic violence and
intolerance. The resilience of these poisonous passions goes to the
heart of why the United Nations was established.
We are all proud of the nations to which we belong. But it is a
fundamental principle of the civilized world that loyalty to nation does
not justify the betrayal of universal values.
The founders of the UN, like the founders of the United States,
did not view the nation simply as an end in itself, but as an instrument
of law, justice, liberty and tolerance. They believed with Goethe that
"above the nations is humanity;" and with Diderot that there can be no
real citizenship and therefore no real nation "under the yoke of
despotism." In this view, nationalism is inclusionary, not
exclusionary. That is the difference, for example, between the true
nation of South Africa today and the mutant South Africa of decades
In respecting the distinctions of physiology, culture and history
that separate us, let us never forget the common humanity that binds us.
We are different peoples, but one species--a species distinguished not
only by our ability to manipulate our thumbs, but by our ability to
think conceptually, create great civilizations, compose masterpieces of
art and ponder the mysteries of life.
The greatest divide in the world today is not between east and
west, north and south, or right and left; it is between those ensnared
by the habits and hatreds of the past and those striving to build the
Accordingly, my government appeals to all governments:
Let us each support the effort to bring an enduring peace to long-
troubled regions, including the Middle East, Central Africa and former
Let us each recognize the unbreakable link between human
development and human freedom.
Let us each fulfill the commitments made in the UN Charter.
Let us each abide by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Let us each respect the dignity of our citizens.
And, in so doing, let us each meet our shared responsibility to
the future and to the children whose inheritance we hold in sacred and
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