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need for more consensus among Western countries; and the need for greater discretion for our delegate there so he can exercise some judgment on the spot rather than trying to fulfill instructions from the State Department in Washington, D.C.
I think of all the things that you have mentioned, the one that is the most disconcerting is the inability of our delegate to the Commission to reflect our human rights policy in a way that is consistent, yet with enough flexibility, to work within a consensus framework. Öne of the issues that this subcommittee will be looking at is the consistency of U.S. human rights policy.
We have not only what emanates from the State Department, but Congress intervenes from time to time, both within the Foreign Affairs Committee and on the House floor to establish another area of interest or another human rights policy. That makes it, I think, difficult for us to establish the coherency and consistency that we want with respect to human rights.
In your observation at Geneva, did you sense that the State Department was attempting to call the shots from Washington, D.C. with little discretion for the delegates, or was it having an ill-defined human rights policies in a number of areas?
You pointed to the resolution concerning Iran and South Africa. It seems to me, while we have had prohibition on the shipment of arms to South Africa and we have had grave concern about the domestic situation there, we have not acted in any way that would lead our delegate to believe that we should oppose or condemn the present government of Iran for its refusal to sell oil to South Africa.
What responsibility does the delegate there have for this issue?
Mr. BUCHANAN. To your basic question, I think lack of clear policy certainly is at the heart of the matter. Second, that on one of the most difficult questions, decisions are made at a very high level at the Department of State on major issues and by lower level personnel on smaller questions, routine matters. Both types of decisions appear to be made often in Washington.
The delegation is operating under pretty definite restrictions. But apparently some decisions made at a lower level are based on policies that may no longer be appropriate. When you get down somewhere in the middle of the bureaucracy, I fear it may become a matter of turf for some middle-level bureaucrat in the Department of State, doing his thing by issuing his instructions according to priorities established in past years without necessarily being sufficiently sensitive to the situation in Geneva.
If I may give another illustration. Last year, before I left Washington for Geneva, I met with some rather high-level people in the Department of State, and I said I could go to Geneva only if I could personally raise certain questions and mention certain names in an intervention while I was there. I told the Department that I could not be in the position of giving up some other involvements I had and go to Geneva and not raise certain questions. I was assured that I could do so, but when I got to Geneva and sent my intervention back to the Department for clearance, one of the central items was stricken, and I have never officially learned who it was who struck it. It was not the Secretary of State.
Mr. BONKER. Was this a prepared statement ?
Mr. BUCHANAN. Yes. And someone in the middle bureaucracy had taken it upon himself to strike from my statement something on which I had received assurances in advance, that I could include in my statement before I left Washington. Fortunately, I was able to raise these issues in other ways.
I really think that there is a need for a high-level review, and perhaps by your committee, as well as the highest level at the State Department, of the handling of routine questions and take some of that decisionmaking power out of the hands of, or at least better define it for, the middle-level bureaucracy of the State Department.
Mr. BONKER. It seems to me that the congressional delegate to the Commission ought to be sufficiently informed of our human rights policies in general, and have the confidence and support of the State Department. He is capable of exercising discretion, not only in substantive matters, but in a whole range of procedural matters that come up.
If he is not given free rein, it is going to be very difficult for him to be effective within the Commission, because when you are trying to develop a consensus of the other Western allies, and he is intimidated by what may or may not be coming from the State Department, I can see where his efforts to be a leader within the Commission are inhibited,
Mr. BUCHANAN. On the matter of the specific illustration which I gave, which might not have been the best illustration because you have a question mark about our policy, we do not support an all-out economic boycott against South Africa. Certainly it would seem more in line with our policy for us not to be identified with commending one government for imposing such a boycott.
What troubled me about it was the insistence that we block the consensus and then we had to move on to be the only nation to vote “no," where most other Western nations were simply abstaining, which, in their cases, did not endorse the embargo. And it was the isolation, it was the delegation being forced to take a position in isolation that troubled me and has troubled me ever since I have had any personal involvement in the U.N. system.
Mr. BONKER. Regardless of who the delegate is, this is a continuing problem?
Mr. BUCHANAN. Absolutely. So all the time I was at the U.N. General Assembly, I cringed at our African positions, particularly on that point. They have improved a little since, not very much, but we would, over and over again, in my judgment, unnecessarily isolate ourselves, both with the strength of our statements on small matters and with insisting on negative votes when our other Western friends were abstaining without endorsing necessarily what was happening.
When we do this in areas that are of such central importance to the developing countries, they are such sensitive matters as far as all the Africans are concerned, it makes it doubly hard for us to prove our concern for their rights and for us to win their support in those matters that may be of importance to our country.
Again, I would say the nitpicking on budget matters is another area like that. That Department of State is, for some reason, frightened to death of the Congress when it comes to any money matter and feels
it to be an obligation to nitpick on every single spending item that comes along
I think for the wealthiest country that has ever existed in the history of the world, it makes such a limited total investment in these things, although it may be making the largest. By our standards, it just seems to me that we unnecessarily put ourselves right with the Russians into the role of the bad guy with the black hat rather than being the superpower who is the good guy with the white hat.
Mr. BONKER. When you referred to the nitpicking on expenditures, this does refer to the State Department's reluctance to help finance a U.N. Commissioner?
Mr. BUCHANAN. Of course, we support that idea, but we nitpick on so many other budget items. I was contrasting the fact that we are supporting the U.N. Commissioner on Human Rights, which means more budget, with the fact that we tend to nitpick on other, smaller budget items.
Mr. BONKER. There must be a former Congressman involved if we are doing that kind of nitpicking.
Mr. BUCHANAN. I think, Mr. Chairman, the United States is in a position to give leadership to the U.N. system. I think there is every reason that we can give leadership. I think the slight change of attitude and posture and review of all of our policies, the decision to abstain sometimes rather than isolate ourselves, the decision to be somewhat more positive and nitpick a little bit less, the decision to aggressively work with the leadership people like Mr. Mezvinsky and others, and to be a force within the U.N. system, I think we can succeed. Í think we may need to make some changes in order to maximize that opportunity.
Mr. BONKER. John, since 1977–78 when the United States raised the concern of human rights to the level that it has, and we have attempted to implement human rights policies in various ways, is the expectation level of other countries and the potential for being in contradictory positions with respect to our human rights policy, causing us something of a problem in exercising that leadership? Do you think since we have raised this issue on such a worldwide basis, that people find it convenient to politicize our human rights policy to their own convenience ?
Mr. BUCHANAN. Yes, Mr. Chairman. I would agree. I would say again that I would hope that we would have your review and review at the highest levels of the administration of the implications of human rights being an essential plank of our foreign policy, as the President, the Secretary of State, Mr. Mezvinsky and others have reiterated—that we review the implications of that even in the smaller matters as well as the large matters in such areas as human rights.
Mr. BONKER. Your statement implies that we are really not exercising our leadership within the Commission, that our participation is negative, and that our delegate does not have sufficient authority to act. I am wondering whether, despite our image of being a leader in this field, if we really are being effective within the Commission?
Mr. BUCHANAN. I would say, Mr. Chairman, in my judgment it is like having a very fine eight-cylinder car operating on two cylinders, and needing something of an overhaul. We are giving some leadership.
Mr. BONKER. Do you think if we make the delegate an official Ambassador that that would add a few cylinders ?
Mr. BUCHANAN. Yes, indeed, I do think so.
Mr. BONKER. Thank you so much, Congressman Buchanan, for your appearance and testimony today. Mr. BUCHANAN. Thank you.
Mr. BONKER. I appreciate your continuing interest in human rights policy.
Ambassador Mezvinsky—we might as well promote you—I welcome you to the subcommittee as a former member and as our official delegate to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, and I understand that Mr. Warren Hewitt, Director of the Office of Human Rights, Bureau of International Organizations, Department of State, is accompanying you. We have a good beginning and, Mr. Mezvinsky, if you dant to continue either with your formal statement or informal report, you may proceed at your own pleasure.
STATEMENT OF HON. EDWARD M. MEZVINSKY, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
If I may I would like to submit the statement for the record and quickly summarize it. Then we can go on to some of the points that were raised by Congressman Buchanan and then answer whatever questions you have.
First I would like to say that I welcome the opportunity to be here. I am glad that this subcommittee is still in existence. There was some question at one time, but fortunately it is still in existence and fortunately the oversight role that you mentioned at the very beginning is there and it can be very helpful to our efforts.
Now, before going into the comments by Congressman Buchanan, I might quickly say that I welcome those comments. He, as well as Members of Congress, play a very key role in this whole issue, let alone the Human Rights Commission, and I was pleased that he mentioned that it was a good idea to have Members of Congress and public members as a part.
I think that what he was saying in terms of the problems I will defer until I give a quick summary of what really happened at the Commission and then quickly get back to that.
We see a Human Rights Commission that is involved with 32 member countries. They come from respected parts of the world. The forum is a forum that is devoted toward human rights. It is a Commission that is the key organization in the field of human rights for the United Nations. Its basic thrust, at least our position has been, that it should function as effectively as possible and try to avoid focusing on a few countries and begin to broaden the perspective, and that is the hope that comes from, as you point out, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which is the implementing arm. It comes from the Charter. It comes from the covenants that the President signs. It comes from other agreements that we still have pending before the U.S. Congress in the Senate.
That is the background. What happened at this particular session !
Briefly, what happened at this session was that there were many items on the agenda. The items cover everything from the drafting of international instruments, such as the Torture Convention. A beginning was made on that, I think a very significant beginning, and we can try hopefully to complete that instrument within the next year, or certainly by the next Commission. We had another issue, the declaration on religious intolerance. There are many groups in this country, domestically as well as throughout the world, which have been with us many years and very little action has been taken in the past. This year, for the first time, three articles were approved over objections from Eastern Europe and others which were, in principle, against the whole concept of the declaration on religious intolerance.
We heard, as Congressman Buchanan pointed out, a discussion about the confidential procedures involving certain countries. Action was taken on 10 countries.
A country. I know you are interested in in terms of your visit in the past, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia, Burma, Indonesia, South Korea.
Mr. BONKER. Let the record show that I was only in one of those countries.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. One country you were traveling in, and only country. Let the record make that clear.
So for the first time this year, there was over a week of discussion where particular countries had to answer, in confidential session, complaints about a consistent pattern of gross violations within the country. That, I think, in some ways was unprecedented when you see a country actually come in and have to answer the questions. There are some people, and we can go into whether that confidential procedure is totally effective, doing its job, but at least the process has begun.
In one case, Equatorial Guinea, that country did not cooperate under the confidential procedures and, as a result, was forced to face a public condemnation that took place at this Commission.
Mr. BONKER. When you say "public condemnation," resolution or disapproval ?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. A public resolution against Equitorial Guinea specifically for its violations of human rights and for its lack of cooperation.
Mr. BONKER. What was the vote on that?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. The vote on that, the total vote, I think there wasdo you remember the exact vote, Warren? The vote was overwhelmingly in support of the resolution. I think there was a small, handful of countries, basically Eastern European, I think, and two other countries, Syria and Iraq, that voted against that proposition, but most Third World countries western delegations—as far as the African countries, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, joined in that. For the record, we will give you the total vote. [The information follows:] The vote was as follows: 20 in favor, 3 against (U.S.S.R., Poland, Bulgaria), and 9 abstentions..
Mr. BONKER. The resolution was based on human rights violations, but prompted because they did not send a representative to respond to the charges?