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African countries which have engaged in massive violations of human rights at times amounting to genocide. There is also a big middle category, what we call "single party states," areas where there is tremendous variation. There is variation depending on which dimension one is examining, whether it is independence of the judiciary, freedom of the press, prison conditions, et cetera. What is significant is that trends in Africa are generally in a positive direction. What is even more important is the emerging African consensus that human rights conditions are not simply a question of internal sovereignty and that African nations as a whole have a right and an obligation to become involved when a single African country seriously abuses the human rights of its citizens.
Mrs. FENWICK. I am trying to see what you think we ought to do. In other words, where we find that some 40,000 political prisoners are reported, most of them black, what should we do? When we find them in some other place, what should be our response ? It is difficult to insist that the main strain of our politics is human rights and then do nothing about it. What would you suggest we do?
Mr. Cohen. I apologize if I have not understood. I will try to answer that specifically.
First, we have got to make sure that in the conduct of everyday diplomacy our ambassador is constantly raising and pressing human rights questions, making clear to the host government that the kind of relations it has with the U.S. Government depends on human rights conditions and human rights improvements That is the first thing:
Second, we have got to insure that no military aid is going forward to a government which is committing serious rights abuses unless there is a very compelling national security reason of our own that justifies it. This is because providing military aid to a highly repressive regime presents the most serious kind of contradiction for the human rights policy.
Mrs. FENWICK. Military or any aid?
Mr. Cohen. On economic aid we operate under a statutory directive, section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act. It directs us not to provide bilateral economic assistance to a government which is a serious human rights violator unless that assistance directly benefits needy people.
Finally, we have to involve other nations when we believe there is a very serious problem. We have to try to involve our Western allies. Now to give you an example, there was a situation in one African country this year in which there were a number of summary executions being carried out. We protested and made representation and the act of protesting and representing was done in conjunction with a number of other Western governments.
Mrs. FENWICK. Thank you.
Mr. BONKER. Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for your testimony today. We hope that you will submit for the official record some of the items to which you referred earlier.
Mr. COHEN. I would be happy to.
The committee will now hear from a panel of three and I will ask them to come up to the table at this time. Mr. Vincent McGee, Dr. Warren Weinstein, and Mr. Raymond Gastil.
Mr. McGee is the acting chairman of Amnesty International and he is accompanied by Stephanie Grant. Dr. Warren Weinstein is vice president of the coordinating counsel for International Issues and Mr. Raymond Gastil is the director of the Comparative Survey of Freedom, Freedom House.
The chairman notes, however, that these are unusually lengthy statements; one is 36 pages, one is 20 pages and the other is about 12 pages. The subcommittees would greatly appreciate summarized statements from the witnesses. If you could confine your opening statement to 10 or 15 minutes, we could then get into the question period, and that way everybody will be heard from. Otherwise, we will be interrupted by voting and never get through the final panelist. The complete text of your prepared statements will be submitted for the official record.
At this time, we will begin with Mr. Vincent McGee.
STATEMENT OF VINCENT MOGEE, ACTING CHAIRMAN, AMNESTY
INTERNATIONAL, U.S.A. Mr. McGEE. May I express our appreciation for this hearing and our opportunity to testify on behalf of Amnesty International. The reporting and documentation of human rights abuses around the world present special problems, to say nothing of the difficulty of correcting the abuses and guaranteeing human rights freedoms for all peoples in years ahead. This is the first time that Congress has addressed these important questions so directly as they relate to the African Continent and we are particularly grateful for the initiative taken by your two subcommittees.
My name is Vincent McGee. I am acting chairman of Amnesty International, U.S.A., which is the U.S. section of Amnesty International, based in London, the location of the research and administrative secretariat coordinating our work in 39 accredited national sections and in over 25 additional countries with 200,000 individual members throughout the world. I am pleased to note that at our recent international council meeting in Belgium we welcomed as the most recent national section accredited to Amnesty that from the Ivory Coast. The Ivory Coast joins existing sections in Nigeria and in Senegal although there are individual members in various other countries on the African Continent.
AIUSA has its national office in New York City with additional staffed offices in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and regional staff persons based in Boston, Chicago, and New Orleans.
I am accompanied today by Ms. Stephanie Grant, director of the Washington office of AIUSA. Ms. Grant was formerly head of research at Amnesty's International Secretariat in London where she had responsibility for the research used in all of our work. Ms. Grant is responsible for the preparation of our formal statement and is prepared to reply to whatever questions you may wish to place before us at the end of our presentation.
The committee has asked that we describe the major human rights abuses taking place at this time on the African Continent and to comment on countries with particularly serious problems. May I note the difficulty of a complete response since it would deal with 44 sub
Saharan countries with as many variations in history, in custom, and legal system. And just as we do not as an organization rank countries, we would also prefer not to comment on the specific work of the State Department or other governmental agencies since that is not a normal technique for us. We prefer to stand alone within our mandate and present information as we receive it and judge it.
We would then like to set the specific violations in the context of international and regional structures working toward the protection of human rights in the African Continent. Finally, you have asked us about Amnesty International, its research procedures and also about the problem of collecting reliable information on human rights violations.
Amnesty International's work is widely known; however, the extent of our concern is often misunderstood. Amnesty International's mandate is more limited than usually thought. Ours is a work for prisoners. We seek the unconditional release of prisoners of conscience who are detained for their belief and who have not used or advocated violence. We seek to end torture and the death penalty in every instance, and we work for fair trials and standards of imprisonment which respect human dignity. This mandate excludes, but in no sense denigrates, social and economic rights.
These parallel sets of rights-civil and political, and social and economic—tend to complement each other. When people are deprived of their socioeconomic rights and cannot make their voices heard, they are unlikely to have their needs met or their grievances redressed.
The rights with which we are concerned have been clearly defined in international law. Amnesty International's aim is to guarantee those rights which relate to the integrity of the person whether detained or in threat of detention. These are the most fundamental of human rights and it is our aim to protect these rights from the vicissitudes of political controversy and to establish them as principles for application by national or local domestic courts. In this effort we are partly advocates and partly technicians—advocates because we defend from abroad those to whom defense is denied at home and technicians because we are limited by our mandate and do not take a position on the political system within which violations occur or as to the legitimacy of a government which is responsible for human rights violations. It is the most basic principle of our work that we apply our mandate universally, in South Africa and in Ethiopia alike, and that we argue the absolute and indivisible nature of the rights within it. May I note for the record that we take no position on any linkage between human rights violations and economic or military aid.
In this testimony we identify types of violation which are now prevalent in a number of African countries: Untried detention, torture, the judicial and extrajudicial use of the death penalty, and prison conditions which degrade the human person. We also observe and comment on legal procedures in some political cases.
Detention without trial is used in many African countries. The purpose and duration varies; the short-term purpose may be to intimidate or to interrogate, but where prisoners are held for vears without trial the intent often will be to suppress opposition and remove opponents from the political arena. In Rhodesia the detention of nationalist leaders, some for as long as 10 years, was traditionally a technique used by
the white government to control the black nationalist movement. But not all detainees are political activists.
In Kenya the well-known writer Ngugi wa Thiong'o was detained alongside elected Members of Parliament. In Zaire, Angola, and Mozambique numbers of Jehovah's Witnesses are now held. While longform detention is often accompanied by harsh prison conditions, as in Ethiopia, short-term detention correlates closely with interrogation and torture especially where, as in South Africa, the law enables a detainee to be held incommunicado for an indefinite period.
The norms of international law which generally prohibit untried detention have been accepted by African lawyers. On page 5 of our formal statement you will find reference to the important statement made by the African Bar Association in Freetown last year. On page 6 we note that constitutional guarantees against torture and ill-treatment which exist in most African states are breached all too regularly. Torture has occurred in connection with large-scale ethnic conflicts in Nigeria, in the Sudan, and in Burundi. It may be an adjunct to political trials as a means of extracting confession as in Zaire, Guinea, or South Africa or it may be used to punish and intimidate as until recently in Uganda, Guinea, and the Central African Empire and currently in Ethiopia.
We also note the use of the death penalty not only in violent criminal offenses but also after summary conviction by military courts in times of national crisis. In Ghana earlier this year three former heads of state were executed after a military trial on charges of corruption, at which they were denied rights of defense or appeal. An allied problem is the incidence of extrajudicial killings by progovernmental forces. The mass murder of students in the central African empire is fortunately now a matter of history but very large-scale killings have taken place in a number of African countries; in Burundi some years ago, in Uganda and Guinea, and during the "red terror" in Ethiopia.
We urge your attention also to the humanitarian problem of bad prison conditions. Although these conditions may relate to the economic and social context of the countries concerned, in some cases, Cameroon is one example, they appear to have been made deliberately harsh for political prisoners.
Finally in this list of abuses we have mentioned legislation in some African countries which explicitly deny certain rights. In Togo, for example, the Jehovah's Witnesses faith is proscribed. In Mali anyone who insults the head of state "by speech, loud voice or menacing tone *** or by written documents” is liable to up to 5 years' imprisonment.
Between pages 12 and 26 you will find summary descriptions of the situation as it has been reported to Amnesty International in Zaire, Ethiopia, South African, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe and Rhodesia. In the case of Zaire where torture is alleged, Jehovah's Witnesses and others are detained and political trial proceedings have been the subject of major criticism. However, the government has entered fully into the United Nations system of human rights protection by acceding to the covenants on civil, political, sorial and economic rights and by signing the optional protocol. A remedy should be possible within this structure.
I am pleased to note an error in our formal text on page 14. We received information this morning that the last group of prisoners in
Zaire sentenced after an alleged plot to overthrow the government in 1975 were released on October 15. Although we do not at this time have documentation of the actual release, the release has been announced.
In Ethiopia we identify several thousand political prisoners, including members of the former imperial family, former government and administration officials and their wives and children, and the widows of some men executed without trial in 1974; also people who were politically involved in the revolution but criticized the subsequent rule by the Derg; Eritreans, civilians, and members of the armed forces who have opposed the Derg, members of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary party, trade unionists and members of other political groupings. We describe in detail the persecution of the Mekane Yesus Church.
In Zimbabwe-Rhodesia the human rights situation has deteriorated significantly since the April elections and since the formation of the Muzorewa government in June. Major human rights problems of past years remain and have even intensified since the introduction of martial law in September 1978 which was altered in still greater use of detention, more rigorous conditions of imprisonment, widespread torture, a further drastic erosion of judicial safeguards during trials and the increased use of the death penalty. Latest estimates suggest that there are between 8,000 and 15,000 detainees held under martial law and this figure includes many women and children. Due process rights are grossly denied to those tried before martial law courts. In no case known to Amnesty International has a defendant been permitted legal representation even though the death penalty can be imposed for many offenses. Such death sentences are not subject to judicial review.
Although the situation in the Cameroons is on a smaller scale, between 200 and 300 untried detainees are currently held and allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners have been made on numerous occasions.
We would like to draw your attention to a further deterioration in the human rights situation in South Africa. This contrasts with apparent reforms this year relating to trade union rights and in the law affecting mixed marriages. Of particuluar concern to us is an amendment to the Inquest Act which will prevent press reporting in cases of violent death, presumably in order to avoid the type of adverse comment which accompanied the death of Steve Biko while in police custody in September 1977.
On page 27 we describe Amnesty International's research operation and mention some of the many sources from which its information is drawn. Typically they would include public material such as press reports, legal texts, United Nations documents and unpublished testimony from relatives, former prisoners, lawyers, opposition groups, church people, journalists and academics. In the area of human rights, research inevitably focuses on the point of conflict between a government and its critics, both of whom are interested parties as sources of information. To a far greater degree than on other issues, governments are not objective sources of information on domestic human rights questions. Governments often see this type of information as running directly counter to the national interest and so discourage it.