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human rights are significant in number and recurrent, the "pattern" is not "consistent" if there is some decline in the overall number of

abuses. In other words, a country suddenly becomes entitled to economic and security assistance simply because the number of abuses falls, even though widespread torture, arbitrary imprisonment, and summary execution may continue.

To illustrate, suppose that country A tortures and executes 400 political prisoners a year. It would be considered to "engage in a consistent pattern of gross violations" and therefore to be ineligible for security and economic assistance. Suppose further that the number


Under the administration's

executions falls to 300 a year. interpretation of the law, this reduction in the number of executions is to be regarded as a "positive step" which has broken the "consistent pattern" and makes country A suddenly eligible for U.S. assistance.

This is hardly an artificial example. Since 1977, the Guatemalan government has summarily executed thousands of its citizens for political reasons. After there was a drop in the number of urban executions early last year, the Department of State argued that Guatemala was no longer engaging in a "consistent pattern" even though widespread torture and summary execution continued. Uruguay was said to be suddenly entitled to U.S. aid because of a numerical decline in the political prisoner population from 1500 to 1000. Yet Uruguay, with a population of only a few million still retains one of the highest political prisoner to population ratios in the world and the remaining prisoners are routinely tortured.


This interpretation makes a mockery of the intent of Congress:

that U.S. assistance be denied to governments engaging in widespread abuses of fundamental human rights. There is no indication in the legislative history that Congress supposed that a mere fluctuation in the number of abuses alone should magically render a government eligible for aid while it continued to commit gross abuses on a significant scale.

There is a further flaw in the Department of State's reasoning. It naively supposes that any numerical decline must be the result of positive steps taken to curb violations. But there is no reason to

suppose that this is in fact the case. In the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, it is just as likely that a fractional decline (where significant numbers of abuses continue) is due, not to a government decision to halt abuses, but rather to the effectiveness of repression. So many political opponents of the government may have already been killed, that a smaller pool remains from which to select victims. Or it may be that many fewer citizens are willing to engage in political activities that will subject them to risk. The numerical decline may then reflect the success of repression, rather than its lessening.

Moreover, in attempting to document a numerical decline, the Department of State has played fast and loose with statistics and made false comparisons. Chile, for example, is said to no longer engage in a "consistent pattern" of abuses, because the number of summary executions, around 700 in 1973, has fallen in 1982 to several dozen. But there was no mention of the fact that the 1982 figure represents a significant increase over the late seventies when the number of summary executions fell to almost zero, or that since 1980 there has

been a dramatic increase both in the number of arbitrary detentions and in the use of torture by the Chilean secret police.


By eliminating the word "consistent" from Section 502B, Congress would clearly signal its disagreement with the Executive's interpretation of the human rights standard. This change will not alter the intended meaning of the law. It will instead help restore the original meaning intended by Congress.

There is a further reason for making this change. The House Banking Committee has already recommended that the word "consistent" be dropped from the human rights standard in Section 701 of the Financial





this recommendation will be adopted by the full House. Failure to make the same change in the human rights standard in Section 502B would create confusion and complexity. There would exist two different standards

for determining when to eliminate assistance. Section 701 would look to a "pattern of gross violations" but Section 502B to a "consistent pattern".


this reason, the subcommittee should also consider recommending the same change in the human rights standard of Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act, so that the language in all three major human rights provisions would remain parallel. There exist, in addition, a number of other international human rights statutes in the U.S. Code which use the same phraseology and should also be amended to produce conformity. A list of these other provisions is contained at the end of this testimony.


The administration has made three arguments against deleting the word "consistent". First, it notes that the human rights language in the U.S. legislation was taken almost verbatim from a rule of the United Nations Human Rights Commission. It then announces that the

human rights standard in the U.S. legislation must conform to the U.N. rule and may not be changed by "unilateral" U.S. action.

But the administration never explains why the U.S. Congress is necessarily precluded by the existence of the U.N. rule from adopting the proposed change. There is no reason why the U.S. must march in rigid lockstep to conform to exactly what the U.N. does. If Congress believes that a change in language would, on balance, be beneficial, it should make it, even if the change departs from the U.N. standard. Moreover, this first argument assumes that the administration's reading of "consistent" is the same as the U.N. Commission's, so that the two standards are now, in essence, the same. But there is no evidence whatsoever that the U.N. Commission would agree with the administration's reading of "consistent." In the past, the U.N. Commission has applied its rule to countries engaged in widespread violations, even if there had been a partial decline in the overall numbers. Ironically, by prohibiting the administration's deviant reading of "consistent', the proposed change should create greater actual conformity with the U.N. rule as interpreted by the Human Rights Commission.

The administration's second argument is that the change will require assistance to be terminated if there is a "burst of serious human rights violations [which does] not continue." This argument ignores the fact that the word "pattern" remains in the legislation.

This word ensures that isolated instances of abuses are not enough and that abuses must be significant in number and recurrent before the law requires that aid be terminated. Any possible doubt about this issue could be resolved by appropriate language in the committee reports.

Third, the administration argues that the proposed change will make it impossible to reward a government for human rights "improvements." This argument obviously cannot apply to the case in which widespread gross violations are ended. In that case, the country in question becomes eligible for renewed security and economic assistance under the law. A possible problem can arise only when widespread gross violations continue despite some improvements. But the United State government can recognize the progress without actually providing security and economic assistance--which most highly prized "carrots" that we have to offer. Modest progress should obtain only modest rewards. To provide what is most desired when a government continues to engage in torture, summary execution, and arbitrary detention on a significant scale creates a perverse structure of incentives.

are the

I would like to end with a word of caution. While the elimination of the word "consistent" from the human rights standard is desirable, it is also important not to overestimate the impact. Each of the three major human rights statutes contains an exception to the general rule that assistance may not be provided to a country that engages in gross abuses. In the case of security assistance, the exception is for cases involving "extraordinary affecting the "national security" of the United States.


In the case

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