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as they sometimes do. Instead, they must establish and maintain contacts with church leaders, trade unionists, lawyers and others likely to be involved in human rights Because the worst violations often occur outside major or capital cities, embassy officers should be prepared to travel to remote areas. Those preparing the reports
should pay special attention to the development of institutional safeguards and other indices of permanent
Successful completion of the reporting process cannot be accomplished unless it receives the strong support of State Department officials in Washington. In its oversight
role, Congress, and particularly this Subcommittee, should help to make these matters of priority within the State Department.
REPORTING VS. POLICY
Our satisfaction with the development of the
reporting process is tempered by the awareness that the Reagan Administration shows little disposition to shape its policy to match its own fact-finding.
The Report on Haiti provides a good illustration.
The State Department candidly states that "civil and
political rights are severely restricted in Haiti" and that
"public criticism of the government is generally not permitted.". The Report acknowledges that Haitian security forces are responsible for beating prisoners and that the
government has failed to take "effective measures to
eradicate this practice."
The Report recognizes the highly politicized nature of the judicial system, concluding, for example, that habeas corpus exists "mainly in principle." concludes that in Haiti there has been a "severe curtailment" of freedom of assembly and association and "serious restrictions" on freedoms of speech and the press."
Despite this sober and accurate assessment, the Administration's foreign policy position toward Haiti does not adequately reflect human rights considerations. Continuing violations of human rights in Haiti during the last two years raise serious questions about the Reagan Administration's human rights policy and the manner in which the Country Reports may be utilized to develop future policy. In the last two years, there has been little
in the way of institutional development in the legal or political system of Haiti. Today there is almost no independent press in Haiti and free trade unionism has been all but eliminated. One recent manifestation of the human
rights crises in Haiti was the arrest last month of five people including three members of the virtually defunct
Haitian Christian Democratic Party.
Also arrested was a
70-year old lawyer Duplex Jean-Baptiste, perhaps the country's most important civil rights lawyer and an active member of the Haitian League for Human Rights. Six weeks after the arrest of these five people, their fate remains unclear, as they have yet to be formally charged with any crime or even granted access to see a lawyer.
Troubling questions concerning the impact of the Country Reports on our foreign relations are also raised by the Administration's current policy toward South Africa. The State Department's lengthy, informative and forceful report has accurately portrayed the South African Government's severe abuses of human rights. The Administration's recent public statement criticizing South Africa's system of apartheid serves as a useful follow-up to the February country report. Yet, neither statement can be squared with the Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" which continues to be viewed by the South African Government as a sign of American tolerance of the status quo.
It is to these issues that we must now turn our
This Subcommittee can and should play a key role in this essential re-evaluation of U.S. human rights policy. While the subcommittee should continue to hold hearings like the one today on the annual reports, it should also actively monitor current policy through oversight hearings on the human rights situation in specific countries, and the policy options available to the United States.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you very much, Mr. Posner, for your statement. Now I would like to call on Ms. Laber for your statement.
STATEMENT OF JERI LABER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.S.
Ms. LABER. My name is Jeri Laber. I am the executive director of the U.S. Helsinki Watch Committee. I am here today on behalf of Helsinki Watch and of our affiliate, the Americas Watch.
In February 1983 our organizations, together with the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights, prepared a critique of the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in 1982. I am submitting that critique for the record.1
The critique evaluates the State Department's reporting with regard to 22 countries in which abuses are frequent. I am also submitting today testimony prepared some months ago by Aryeh Neier, vice chairman of the Americas Watch, and the Helsinki Watch, in anticipation of these hearings. Mr. Neier could not appear today because he is on a factfinding mission to El Salvador and Nicaragua.
I would like to highlight some of the points in Mr. Neier's prepared testimony and to make a few observations of my own.
In the introduction to the critique we state that the 1982 country reports are "an invaluable source of information on human rights worldwide" and that the Department of State's efforts in compiling the country reports have been responsible, though seriously flawed.
While this testimony focuses on some of the flaws in the reports, we hope that the subcommittee will not lose sight of our overall assessment that the work we are criticizing was conducted responsibly and that the product is an essential document.
Chief among the tendencies that Mr. Neier has criticized in his prepared testimony is the fact that some of the reports have been tailored to serve the political purposes of the Reagan administration. This was done, for example, in the case of Argentina, where the State Department claims that the Argentine Government "is believed to have provided information to family members on the deaths and, in some instances, the location of the remains of the disappeared in about 1,450 cases." In fact, however, no such information had been provided at the time of the report, and attempts to give this impression in the months that followed have been dismal failures.
The only basis we can see for including such unsubstantiated information in the 1982 country reports is to establish a foundation for the Reagan administration's claim that the Argentine Government has complied with a specific criterion for certification specified in U.S. law. Tailoring the country reports to serve such a political purpose is inappropriate, in our view.
Another serious flaw in the 1982 country reports derives from the evident desire of its authors to exculpate current leaders considered friends of the United States of blame for human rights abuses. President Rios Montt of Guatemala, President Evren of
1 See app. 4 for introduction of the critique. The critique, which is too lengthy to be printed in the record in its entirety, is on file with the Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Organizations.
Turkey, President Zia of Pakistan and President Mobutu of Zaire are among those favored in this way.
For example, in the case of Turkey, the report glosses over reports of torture by the Evren Government during 1982. It glosses over the Evren Government's stifling of all public criticism of the new Turkish constitution, and fails to mention the blatant unfairness in the way in which the Evren Government conducted the referendum in which the constitution was adopted.
Similarly, in dealing with Guatemala the country report attempts to exculpate President Rios Montt by asserting that since Rios Montt came to power there has been a "decrease in the level of killings"-this is a quotation from the report. Actually, this is contradicted by the findings of international human rights organizations that monitor developments in Guatemala, including Amnesty International and the Americas Watch.
Another serious flaw in the 1982 country reports is the attempt to absolve governments of responsibility for gross abuses of human rights committed by their agents. The report on El Salvador is an example. It attributes political murders to "extremes of the right and the left" and asserts that "some groups associated with the military security forces identify and eliminate suspected collaborators of the opposition.'
As we pointed out in criticizing the same practice in the 1981 country reports, giving such absolution is inappropriate where such abuses are numerous and where a government has not tried to punish criminally those responsible for abuses. Yet the Department of State is still trying to get away with blaming political murders on extremes and groups associated with the military rather than on the security forces themselves.
Another criticism that we made of the 1981 country reports must be repeated in connection with the 1982 country reports. It is misleading to attempt to portray improvements in human rights by drawing comparisons to long-past periods when particularly gross abuses were committed. The report on Chile is illustrative. It contains the assertion that the human rights situation in Chile has improved significantly in comparison with the post-coup period, 197377.
This assertion is followed by a sentence in which it is said that "the pace of improvements has slowed in the past 2 years." In view of the sharp rise in the number of political arrests in 1982, the institutionalization of torture, the upturn in the number of exilings, and the particular repression directed against labor union leaders and human rights monitors, the use of the term "improvement" in connection with the trend in the past 2 years, regardless of pace, is simply incomprehensible.
A similar tendency is apparent in the report on Turkey, in which considerable attention is paid to the period of terrorism that preceded the military coup of September 1980, in an attempt to show that the coup was justified, indeed necessary. It minimizes the government-sanctioned terrorism that has replaced it.
The report claims that the present government of Turkey is "in the process of restoring parliamentary democracy" and frequently cites provisions of the new Turkish constitution as if they were already established in practice, which they are not, in Turkey today.