« ÎnapoiContinuați »
TEXT OF March 27, 1980, LETTER TO SUBCOMMITTEE CHAIRMAN BONKER
From Hon. J. BRIAN ATWOOD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR CONGRESSIONAL RELATIONS
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, D.C., March 27, 1980. Hon. Don BONKER, Chairman, Subcommittee on International Organizations, Committee on Foreign
Affairs, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. DEAR MR. CHAIRMAN: I believe that a March 17 letter from Mr. Stephen Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, to Mr. Alan Van Egmond of the Subcommittee responds to the questions contained in your letter of March 17, I would like, however, to comment further on an issue raised by questions 1 and 4. Question 1 asks the Department to provide a list of African countries where the human rights situation has deteriorated. Question 4 asks for a list of African countries with the freest press.
We believe the best source of information on the human rights situation in the continent of Africa, as elsewhere, is our annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. These reports are prepared with great care and represent a significant investment of personnel and time, both in Washington and in our posts overseas. In preparing those human rights reports, scrupulous care is taken to avoid injecting subjective conclusions.
We believe it is valuable for the Department to present in this fashion a com-
J. BRIAN ATWOOD,
Congressional Relations. (70)
A REPORT ON THE UNITED NATIONS SEMINAR ON THE ESTABLISHMENT
OF REGIONAL COMMISSIONS on HUMAN RIGHTS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO AFRICA, SUBMITTED BY RONALD E. PUMP, REPRESENTATIVE OF THE INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
The United Nations-sponsored Seminar (GA. Res.
33/167) on the Establishment of Regional Commissions with
Special Reference to Africa convened as scheduled on the
morning of September 10, 1979, at the Unity Conference
Center, the site of the July 1979 OAU Summit Conference,
in Monrovia, Liberia and concluded its work two weeks later.
Representation eventually grew to approximately 75 persons.
It was readily appar
ent to me from the outset that the delegates had come armed
with the commitment, conviction, and determination that as
a result of the human rights situation in Africa today some
meaningful instrument relating to human rights had to emerge
from the deliberations of the seminar, if only to avoid the
embarrassment of failing yet again.
As evidence of the im
portance attached to this effort, several countries sent
cabinet ministers, senior diplomats or high-ranking members
of the judiciary so that producing some tangible result from the seminar became a matter of national interest and prestige.
Liberia, the host country, sent a large delegation headed by its Minister of Justice, who was elected seminar chairperson.
The involvement of the specialized agencies of the UN in the
* The author is a practicing attorney in New York City. He attended the seminar as a representative of the International League for Human Rights, which received grants to defray a substantial portion of the costs. The views expressed are those of the author.
human rights effort was very evident by their widespread par
ticipation and interest. Confidence in the outcome of the seminar grew from an initial point where it was thought that only a general proposal would be adopted to the final draft
proposal envisioning a commission with investigatory powers recognizing the full panoply of civil and political, and economic, social and cultural rights far exceeding the
expectations of even the most optimistic participant. No one expected that the seminar would actually consider adopting such strong language as "[A]frican states would be more
justified in speaking with conviction of the scourge of
apartheid, racism, colonialism and foreign domination, if
certain of them were not to subject their own citizens to
atrocious violations of human rights."
It was apparent that the seminar would not be ac
cusatory in nature, but conciliatory, avoiding direct attacks on states, bearing in mind the extreme sensitivity shown by
certain governments at the recent OAU summit. Delegates nevertheless spoke freely and at times with considerable
candor about human rights violations on the continent.
opening session was addressed by President Tolbert of Liberia
and current Chairman of the OAU who gave an especially elo
quent and inspirational speech on human rights.
As the docu
ment that was drafted by the seminar would ultimately be for
warded to President Tolbert, in his capacity as OAU Chairman,
there was an initial basis for considerable optimism that the
OAU would act favorably on these recommendations.
tary-General of the OAU, Dr. Edem Kodjo, also attended the
opening session, but did not speak or even greet the seminar,
which puzzled many delegates.
Some viewed this as deference
to the Chairman, however.
In my opinion a valuable document containing concrete
proposals resulted from these deliberations, which will be forwarded by the Secretary-General of the UN to the Chairman of the OAV proposing a model for an African Commission on Human Rights. I am particularly pleased to note that a role for non-governmental organizations is envisioned. The seminar coincided with
a perceived optimism in African political affairs today (due to
the downfall of Idi Amin, the report on the massacre in the Central African Empire, and the restoration of democracy in
Nigeria and Ghana)* which hopefully will endure until the heads
of state convene at the next OAU summit.
Dr. Tolbert personally
assured Theo van Boven, with whom he met privately at the end of the conference, that he would use his good offices to ensure that
the proposal received serious consideration by the OAU.
Several previous U.N.-sponsored and private efforts to
establish an African Commission of Human Rights have been under
*The Bokassa regime was overthrown after the seminar.
taken, but without producing any tangible results. This unfortunate history lay heavily on the minds of the participants. However,
the seminar borrowed most heavily from one
private initiative, the International Commission of Jurists
sponsored conference on "Development and Human Rights" held
at Dakar in 1978, and follow-up work from that conference,
including contacting heads of state, is continuing.
best explanations given for the failure of these prior ef
forts was Africa's pre-occupation with colonialism, neocolonialism, and sovereignty during the last decade and a
half, wherein human rights were not given a priority.
delegates expressed the view that the African continent had
now attained the political maturity to withstand scrutiny by an African Commission on Human Rights, although the situa
tion in southern Africa remained unresolved.
not expressed that human rights promotion or protection in
the rest of Africa might detract from efforts to attain
majority rule in southern Africa, nor was the view expressed
that an African Commission of Human Rights would necessarily
contribute anything to the evolution of that process.
minority of other delegates suggested that previous efforts
were merely intellectual exercises undertaken by academicians
who were not sufficiently aware of the realities of African