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REVIEW OF U.S. HUMAN RIGHTS POLICY
THURSDAY, MARCH 3, 1983
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
AND INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS,
The subcommittee met at 1:43 p.m., in room H-236, the Capitol, Hon. Gus Yatron (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. YATRON. The Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations will come to order.
Today the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations initiates a series of hearings with both governmental and private witnesses to review U.S. human rights policies. We will also be discussing the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1982, which was provided to Congress last month in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act.1
This massive document contains individual country reports about fundamental human rights affecting the integrity of the person and relating to civil and political liberties. The report also contains an introduction which sets forth this administration's philosophy on the role of human rights in American foreign policy and which discusses the methodology used in compiling the report.
These reports detail mankind's capacity for inhumanity to our fellow human beings. At the same time, the very existence of such a report testifies to our capacity to strive to improve the human condition, no matter how difficult the task.
In the weeks and months ahead, the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations will renew its efforts to assure that the implementation of our foreign policy fully reflects the statement made in this year's annual report that "human rights is at the core of American foreign policy."
We will also continue to seek ways to strengthen the effectiveness of our country's foreign policy in the human rights area. The subcommittee's activities will build on a proud record of achievement. This subcommittee has played a critical role both in advancing recognition within our own Government of the central importance of human rights and in helping to advance the cause of human rights around the globe.
1A copy of this document is available from the Government Printing Office for $7.50. To order, write to the Superindentent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. The stock number is 052-070-05876-5.
To begin this series of hearings, I am pleased to welcome to the subcommittee the Honorable Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. He is accompanied by Deputy Assistant Secretary Charles Fairbanks.
Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLIOTT ABRAMS, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE, BUREAU OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS, ACCOMPANIED BY CHARLES FAIRBANKS, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE
Mr. ABRAMS. Thank you. I have a brief statement I would like to make.
As the President and Secretary Shultz have stated and as you just noted, Mr. Chairman, from our introduction, we do believe that human rights is at the very core of U.S. foreign policy. The preservation of our own liberty and the expansion of liberty in the world are the underlying purposes of our foreign policy.
Now, while there is broad agreement about that, about human rights goals, there is much less agreement about tactics. For us, the test of human rights policy is its effectiveness, and we try to adhere to tactics that we think will actually work.
So we have developed what we think of as a two-track policy for promoting human rights. For some time, U.S. human rights policy proceeded almost exclusively along a negative or reactive track, responding to human rights abuses and punishing others for human rights abuses. This reactive track is an essential part of human rights policy. Like our predecessors, we seek to use all the tools at our disposal-including private diplomatic approaches, public statements, security assistance, crime control licensing, economic assistance-as forms of pressure to reduce human rights abuses.
Our tactics vary according to the country in question and its relationship to the United States. Where we have diplomatic leverage, we use it. Over the past 2 years, U.S. Ambassadors around the world have responded to human rights abuses and tried to prevent others in dozens and dozens of countries.
Our feeling was that a reactive or negative policy was not sufficient. The goal of human rights deserves more. So the President has introduced a second track into the human rights policy, the promotion of democracy. Democracies have the best human rights records, for an obvious reason: When people can choose their government and dismiss it, that government is less likely to abuse their human rights and will be held to account by the people for any abuses it may commit.
So we wish to go beyond the symptoms and treat the disease itself, that is not only to respond to individual discrete human rights abuses, but to promote the formation of democratic systems in which human rights abuses simply are not tolerated.
Democracy is our heritage and the President wants to reclaim it and make it part of prudent foreign policy. So this is the foundation for the President's democracy initiative. It is an effort to see how we in the United States can be more helpful in the building of democratic institutions throughout the world. The building blocks
of democracy we wish to promote are free institutions such as universities, free press, trade unions, and free elections.
The building of such institutions can be a difficult and complicated task. We believe that it will strengthen our foreign policy and enhance our national interests worldwide if we explore ways of strengthening these institutions.
These are the fundamentals of our human rights policy: To respond to human rights abuses and to seek the spread of democracy so that the future will bring fewer and fewer abuses.
Our views on the human rights situation in each country in the world are given every year in this volume, "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." The most recent one, as you know, just came out a few weeks ago for 1982. It is a really massive work, over 1,300 pages.
No one in the world, no government, and for that matter no private organization, produces anything like it. We have made every effort to make this volume as informative and as fair as we can. It is a very difficult task. In the introduction to this year's unit, Mr. Chairman, we try to discuss some of the difficulties involved.
We are quite proud of the result and we hope that the volume will be useful to you here in the Congress and to people interested in human rights throughout the world. You will note that in this year's volume we have paid increasing attention to political rights and to democracy. We have tried this year, for example, to be more precise about which elections have real voting, which parliaments have genuine debates.
We have tried to give a sense of who really rules in a country. We have paid particular attention to institutions which we associate with liberty-the independent judiciary, free press, free trade unions.
The commitment of the Reagan administration to a vigorous human rights policy is I think quite clear. In his discussion with foreign leaders, Secretary of State Shultz has emphasized this commitment and his own personal interest in this issue.
I am happy to discuss with you today the analyses which underlie our human rights policy, the way we go about doing our work, and the place of the human rights reports in this process. I believe this subcommittee serves the Congress in the same way the Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs serves the executive branch. We both provide a special focus on human rights issues that go to the very core of our national identity, our most deeply held beliefs, and our history. I look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, and with all the members of the subcommittee over the coming months.
Before closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to add just one more thing. I would like to take this opportunity to express my profound dismay and alarm with the recent reports that the Iranian Revolutionary Supreme Court in Tehran has upheld the death sentences of 22 Baha'is. As you know, the Department has supported resolutions in a number of international institutions condemning Iran's treatment of the Baha'is.
Mention has been made in all of the human rights reports prepared since the overthrow of the Shah, and the Department fully supported the resolution concerning Baha'is passed here in Con
gress last fall. It is our sincere hope that the Iranian authorities will heed the voice of world public opinion and will refrain from executing those individuals.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Abrams.
Before we begin the questioning, I would like to call on my colleague Mr. Leach.
Mr. LEACH. I would just like to mention quickly four very positive things, because I also have a series of very critical questions. But first, the positive things:
First, all administrations have good, mediocre, and, sometimes, less than good appointments. I think we have, in Mr. Abrams one of the best Reagan administration appointees.
Second, in terms of successes, I think this administration deserves a good deal of credit for the fact that Kim Dae Jung's death sentence was not only commuted but that he is now in this country. It is wonderful that he has been allowed to go free.
Third, I think we have good news this week in the fact that four long-time prisoners serving life sentences on Green Island in Taiwan have been released. It is a sign of good, forward movement from the Taiwanese Government and I know our Government is working on that.
Finally, let me just say with regard to the human rights reports, that they involve issues of judgment on which I am sure all of the people in this room will disagree. However, they are professional, competent reports, and the Department deserves a great deal of credit.
Having said that, in the question period I will be loaded with criticism. [Laughter.]
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Leach.
Does any other member want to make a statement?
Mr. YATRON. Mr. Secretary, do you think that the administration's present policy in El Salvador places strong enough emphasis on promoting human rights?
Mr. ABRAMS. I do, Mr. Chairman. We have spent an enormous amount of time and effort, as the Congress has, of course, on this issue of human rights in El Salvador. We are well aware that to a very large degree the willingness of the American people and particularly Congress to support America's involvement with the Government of El Salvador depends on their human rights practices. Needless to say, as we have noted in the certification document, in this report as well, progress is not as fast as we would like to see it and the human rights abuses continue. But I believe that that is a measure of the extreme situation in El Salvador, rather than of any failure on the part of the administration to press those points home as hard as possible.
Mr. YATRON. As you know, the certification conditions, as required by law, are due to expire at the end of the fiscal year. Do you think that the Congress should design new certification conditions with respect to human rights so as to strengthen our commitment in this vital area?
Mr. ABRAMS. I have a mixed view of the certification requirement and not really any good advice. My sense is that it has helped
some and hurt some in El Salvador: helped in that it has given us a lever. There is no question that it has been one of the ways that we in the executive branch have been able to pressure the Government of El Salvador and bring home to them how seriously the Congress feels about human rights.
The negative side I think is that on occasion it has made many people wonder whether we were going to pull away from them in a short time and begin to doubt whether American support would be continuing again. That has a good effect if it means they do better on human rights. It might have a bad effect if, for example, in a battlefield situation they are loathe to use the kind of resources they should because they do not know if those resources are going to be replaced.
I think a larger negative effect has been here at home, where it seems to me that in the past the debate in Congress has tended to turn on a number of narrow questions, rather than the broader issues of U.S. national interest. That is, at times I think we have been debating exactly how many hectares are in phase 3 of the land reform program, instead of, is it in the American interest to continue support, do we continue to support that Government or do we not.
I have a sense that there is a growing sense in the Congress that we have to return to some of those fundamentals. How one would do that without sacrificing the advantages of the certification, what kind of certification one might have, is a question I cannot answer. Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Abrams.
Mr. LEACH. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In his first message in Central America yesterday, Pope John Paul II called for peace and social justice, and claimed that this was attainable if only each people can confront its problems in a climate of sincere dialog, without alien interference. I am inclined to concur with that judgment.
But in your human rights report you document some progress on human rights in El Salvador. In 1981, although not clearly pointed out in your report, there were something like 10,000 to 12,000 noncombatant deaths; in 1982, maybe 6,000 to 8,000 noncombatant deaths. That is good progress, but it is like closing Buchenwald and keeping Auchwitz open.
The question I would like to raise pertains to section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, which specifically states:
No security assistance may be provided to any country, the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.
In your human rights report you document very carefully violations of freedom of speech, and association, as well as violations that include torture, and the killing of parties of both the left and the right.
My question to you is, under section 502B do you feel the U.S. Government, based upon what you have written in your own report, can continue military assistance to the Government of El Salvador?