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On November 20, the Second Committee approved without a vote a draft resolution on UNITAR that was sponsored by 19 states, including the United States. In its operative paragraphs the resolution (1) noted the Executive Director's report; (2) invited UNITAR to concentrate its work in the sphere of economic and social training and research so as to include specific projects on the problems in the areas identified by the General Assembly at its sixth and seventh special sessions and in the relevant decisions of its 29th regular session; and (3) expressed the hope that UNITAR would have greater and wider financial support from member states and organizations.
The resolution was adopted by the General Assembly in plenary session on November 28 without a vote.
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HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS
The United Nations system serves an important policy interest of the United States in providing a mechanism for examining and acting on human rights questions.
Although debate on human rights questions in recent years has often lacked judicial objectivity and has taken on a political cast, the fact remains that UN forums, operating under internationally-accepted standards such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, afford one of the best, albeit imperfect, means to keep instances of human rights violations before the world community.
In his speech to the General Assembly on September 22, 1975, Secretary Kissinger underscored the U.S. commitment to the ideals embodied in the concept of human rights:
"The great human rights must be recognized, respected, and given reality in the affairs of nations. The earliest UN declarations, and the recent Helsinki Conference, leave no doubt that these are matters of international concern. The United States will support these principles. Throughout the world, in all continents, violations of human rights must be opposed whether they are inflicted by one race upon another--or upon members of the same race. Human rights must be cherished regardless of race, sex, or religion. There can be no double standard."
In keeping with these objectives, the United States took an active part in human rights debates in 1975, notably at the 31st session of the 32-member Human Rights Commission, 28/ which met in Geneva February 3March 7. Human rights issues were also considered by ECOSOC and the General Assembly.
28 Members in 1975 were Austria, Bulgaria, Byelorussian S.S.R., Costa Rica, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panana, Peru, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, U.S.S.R., United Kingdom, United States, Upper Volta, Yugoslavia, and Zaire.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED TERRITORIES OF THE MIDDLE EAST
The question of violations of human rights in Israeli-occupied Arab territories has come before the Commission every year since 1968, and the debate has become routine and predictable.
The Commission devoted four sessions to this subject and heard statements from, among others, the observers for Jordan, Israel, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). (The PLO had been given observer status by the Commission for the first time at the beginning of the session by a vote of 23 to 1 (U.S.), with 5 abstentions.) Representatives of Arab states and the PLO accused Israel of a variety of violations of human rights in occupied territory, citing, for example, the reports of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the population of the Occupied Territories (see p. 16 ) as evidence of establishment of Israeli settlements, expropriation of property, denials of the right of inhabitants to return to their homes, and repressive measures such as reprisals, including demolition of houses, administrative detention and mass arrests. Several speakers deplored the refusal of Israel to allow the Special Committee access to the occupied territories.. Israel's observer said that the situation of the civilian population in the occupied territories was good and continued to improve and that Israel was the victim of Arab propaganda. He recalled that his government had in the past questioned the legality of the Special Committee and the veracity of its report.
Two resolutions were introduced. One was a standard resolution containing broad condemnations of Israeli policy and practice and calling for ill-defined action on Israel's part. The resolution was adopted on February 21 by a vote of 22 to 1 (U.S.), with 9 abstentions. In explaining his negative vote, the U.S. Representative, Philip E. Hoffman, said that the resolution was indiscriminately condemnatory in tone and was not helpful given the then delicate state of negotiations on Middle East questions. The other resolution deplored the disrespect and ill-treatment of Moslem and Christian religious leaders, called upon Israel to ensure freedom of worship, and called for the release of Greek Catholic Archbishop Capucci, who had been convicted of smuggling arms into Israeli-controlled territory. This resolution was adopted the same day by a vote of 21 to 6 (U.S.), with 5 abstentions. The U.S. Representative said that the allegations of unfair treatment of religious groups contained in the resolution were not supported by any independent evidence and seemed to be politically motivated. Furthermore, he said, there was no evidence before the Commission that the Archbishop's trial had been unfairly conducted.
For the second year in a row, the Commission decided to establish a working group to continue work on a Draft Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief. The 29th General Assembly had asked the commission to submit a single draft Declaration, through ECOSOC, to the 30th General Assembly.
The previous year's working group had had sparse results, agreeing only on the title and the first preambular paragraph. The 1975 working group, using draft texts submitted in 1974 by the Byelorussian S.S.R. and at the current session by the Netherlands, managed in the course of five meetings to adopt six additional preambular paragraphs. Although some progress was made, it was obvious that this subject, traditionally of great importance to the United States, has been the object of dilatory tactics on the part of those not sympathetic to the project.
In the end the Commission voted to report to the General Assembly, through ECOSOC, that the requested draft was not yet completed. The General Assembly, in a decision of December 15, merely approved without vote the recommendation of its Third Committee that the item be placed on the agenda of the 31st Assembly.
PROCEDURES FOR DEALING WITH HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINTS
In 1975, the Human Rights Commission undertook to deal directly with the thousands of private communications relating to violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms that are addressed annually to the United Nations. Following procedures established by ECOSOC in its resolution 1503, adopted in 1970, the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities at its 1974 meeting examined over 9,000 communications received during the preceding year and, as a result, decided to refer to the Commission, as provided by the 1970 resolution, "particular situations which appear to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights requiring consideration by the Commission." (Under these procedures consideration of such cases by the Subcommission and the Commission is confidential and all deliberations take place in closed sessions.)
In the general public debate on this item, the U.S. Representative enunciated the U.S. determination to support these procedures, saying:
When the Subcommission refers a
by the record before the Subcommission and is of continuing and current concern, the United States will support a thorough study. The U.S. support of a study does not imply a prejudgment on the merits by the United States.
Mr. Hoffman also alluded to the procrastinating tendency of the Commission in seeking to refine, clarify, and amend the procedures rather than grapple with specific cases, and asserted that the only way to improve the procedures was to use them. "Then out of the fires of experience will come purification accompanied by increasing effectiveness."
During seven closed meetings devoted to this item there was much discussion of the procedures themselves and of the role of nongovernmental organizations in the Commission's handling of these human rights questions. Debate on the latter subject led to a draft resolution, which on February 24 the Commission recommended that ECOSOC adopt. The draft resolution, which was opposed by the United States, noted that "some nongovernmental organizations have occasionally failed to observe the requirements of confidentiality" and "have often shown disregard for proper discretion" in their oral interventions on matters affecting member states. The draft resolution then called for strict application of the rules regarding the participation of nongovernmental organizations in the confidential proceedings and threatened suspension of consultative status for "failing to show proper discretion in an oral or written statement.'
By the time this draft resolution came before the 58 th ECOSOC in April, it was clear that its criticism of nongovernmental organizations was a source of serious concern, not only to the organizations themselves, but to the many governments that value the contributions these independent groups make to the promotion of human rights. One such concern was the establishment of the vague criterion "proper discretion" as the basis for suspension of consultative status. The United Kingdom, together with Australia, Norway, and the Netherlands, submitted a series of amendments designed to blunt the most objectionable features of the draft resolution and to reaffirm but not extend existing rules on confidentiality. The resulting compromise text, put forward by the Council President, Iqbal A. Akhund of Pakistan, was adopted by ECOSOC without a vote on May 5.
In explaining his support of the compromise resolution, the U.S. Representative, Ambassador Ferguson, emphasized (1) that it was a compromise, not entirely satisfactory to all; (2) that the United States did not agree with the feeling underlying the original draft