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One member, in discussing the general scope of human rights work by the two delegations, mentioned a report by the Trilateral Commission which seemed to suggest a limit to democratic growth in developing countries if a proper business climate was to be retained. This is an example, he noted, of how subtle and pervasive the problem of human rights is. We should not, he concluded, draw limits too closely around the definition of human rights when some people want to limit such rights for reasons of profit.
Another member, discussing the bulletin for parliamentarians, said that more modest goals must be set in the next year by the group. “We need better communication, but we cannot do everything at once so we must be selective with the limited staff and other resources now available" he added.
Similarly, others pointed out that consultation with the United Nations and sanctions against repressive regimes were large-scale undertakings deserving careful study. One member said that such consultation should not be limited to the United Nations, an interpretation accepted by the group.
A REASONABLE PROGRAM PROPOSED
Another member, in commenting on the overall 12-point program, said that the group should not threaten its own credibility by too ambitious a program. We might try to limit some of our criticism to our own countries to preserve this credibility.
Item 8.-There was general agreement that the subject of human rights was important and worthy of both the attention of the delegations and of regular reports and activities by the working group, including reports on joint interventions.
Item 12.-The American delegation chairman noted that this item, concerning cooperation between political parties worldwide on human rights, was the subject, by coincidence, of a meeting today in London of representatives of the three major Western political party federations on human rights matters. This is important work which will hopefully proceed, he said.
Finally, the group discussed briefly the work of Amnesty International, whose director, Martin Ennals, met with the working group at breakfast. This work was specifically commended by the working group.
The closing discussion concentrated on modes of cooperation between American and European members. One member thought that a minimum of publicity was best. Another mentioned the difficult necessity of being even-handed in the work, citing recent press reports on human rights violations in Israel among Arab prisoners. This member later pointed out that an important distinction must be maintained between human rights violations by individuals within a country and those by the government itself. Other members supported this distinction, saying that none of our own governments could deny that individual police or other officials had, at times, abused the rights of some people.
COMMENTS OF U.S. WORKING GROUP ON 12-POINT PROGRAM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS COOPERATION SUGGESTED BY EP WORKING GROUP
The following are the comments of the U.S. Working Group on Human Rights on the 12 points suggested by the EP Working Group on Human Rights at its first meeting on March 23, 1977. In general, we find the suggestions of our European colleagues a very useful catalogue of possible future joint activities. We hope, therefore, that the two working groups meeting in London in July 1977 can work toward a specific program of action on these important 12 points.
Proposal No. 1.-"Conducting regular discussions on human rights issues (e.g. the application of the Helsinki Final Act, the question of democracy in Spain, South Africa and so on) during European Parliament/United States Congress interparliamentary meetings.'
Comments. This goal is achieved by the establishment of the two working groups, but the agenda for future meetings, and for joint working relations between the parliamentary meetings, need to be worked out. For example, some of the suggested items for discussion such as the Helsinki Final Act, cover more than human rights issues. These other aspects of Helsinki, such as East-West trade, confidence building mechanisms, etc. should continue to be considered by the delegations. Some of the suggested items for discussion are topical questions (Spain, South Africa) on which the joint working groups might seek to develop more expertise in order to make a greater contribution to the discussion. For example, the joint working groups might want to assign "watching briefs" to members so that events in Spain and southern Africa could be better assessed. Was the Spanish electoral law, for example, a fair one, designed to represent properly the variety of view within Spain? Or, what are the means of economic and political influence with the EC and the U.S. which might contribute to a peaceful and just solution in southern Africa? By assigning members to such difficult questions, the two groups might be better able to contribute to future work in these areas.
Proposal No. 2.-"Establishing procedures for introducing and adopting joint or parallel resolutions of the two parliaments, condemning systematic violations of human rights or of democratic principles wherever they occur.”
Comment. This suggestion relates to a fundamental question, the coordination of European and American activities on human rights. The two groups might better postpone detailed consideration of this proposal until we see how more specific joint efforts proceed.
Proposal No. 3.-"Establishing ways of intervening as a matter of urgency for humanitarian reasons on human rights transgressions."
Comment.-Human rights incidents involving threat of life and torture, or sudden disappearance, or arbitrary arrest and detainment for questioning are examples of such urgent matters. How to deal with them is first of all a matter of communicating the facts of the incident to appropriate officials, a task in which parliamentarians can plan effective roles. How this communication should be organized in urgent cases should be considered under Proposal No. 7 below. Proposal No. 4.-"Agreeing to carrying out joint missions of inquiry which would include members from both the European Parliament and the Congress to certain countries where the human rights situation is of concern."
Comment. This suggestion is closely related to Proposals 5 and 6 which refer, respectively, to inviting members of the European Parliament to give evidence before Congressional hearings on human rights (and, presumably, vice-versa) and examining the possibilities of the European group holding hearings in Europe on human rights issues, presumably also in a manner coordinated with the work of the U.S. group.
Aside from the importance of discussions between the two groups, there is no higher priority than a careful examination of the specific means of cooperation which these three suggestions envision. Our London meeting should give high priority, therefore, to examining both the modes and the timing of such joint efforts. For example, in identifying human rights problem areas, we might consider ways that our groups' members can become actively involved in investigative work. Should we volunteer our services, individually and/or as groups, to such organizations as Amnesty International which often sends study missions to problem areas? Or should our contribution be limited, by either type of violation (e.g. those involving parliamentarians) or by area (where parliamentarians might have better access) to efforts where we might make a unique contribution?
MODEST TANGIBLE GOALS
In approaching these joint efforts, we might concentrate on modest, tangible steps to gain experience which will then gradually allow an expansion of the work. For example, we might try to agree in London on one specific joint undertaking, with clear goals under a timetable which would allow the two groups to report by their next meeting on results.
In principle, the Subcommittee on International Organizations, chaired by Congressman Fraser, which conducts many of the House hearings on human rights, would be happy to have the testimony of members of the European Parliament whenever possible.
Other aspects of Proposal 6 concern the working methods of the European group for which the views of the U.S. group are less relevant. But the U.S. group is ready, whenever asked, to provide its EP counterpart with details of Congressional hearing methods if this would facilitate comparable efforts by the European Parliament.
Proposal No. 7.—“Contributing suggestions to a proposed international bulletin for parliamentarians on human rights."
Comment. This is a project which some of the members of the U.S. group undertook several years ago. A sample of the first newsletter is attached. The U.S. group would be interested in methods of improving this or similar means of communications among the two groups. For example, a newsletter itself may not be the best means of communication since it lacks flexibility and speed often needed on urgent human rights problems. Could the two groups establish a telex network instead which would allow almost immediate communications when needed? Or should both a newsletter and a telex system be established? Would it be better if a separate office, perhaps under outside control, operated such a newsletter or a telex system? If so, who could operate such an office and with what financial support?
Proposal No. 8.-"Drawing up a regular report on the effects of interventions by the European Parliament and by the United States Congress on human rights issues."
Comments. Presumably, the two working groups would, at their regular semiannual meetings, make such reports informally. Perhaps a more formal report would be desirable but this question might better be delayed until the specific goals and a workplan of the two groups are established.
Proposal No. 9.—“Making suggestions and recommendations for the development of the right of political asylum and for methods for caring for exiles and refugees."
Comment. This is an extremely important and difficult area. It deserves the careful joint attention of the two groups, perhaps in the form of papers to be prepared for the 1978 spring meeting.
Proposal No. 10.-"Making recommendations for consultation between the United States and the EEC on human rights issues examined with the United Nations or its specialized bodies."
Comment.-Depending upon the urgency of the matter, this suggestion can be included under Proposal 7 (newsletter, telex communication) or Proposal 1 (regular discussions of the two working groups) although it is possible that the groups will, from time to time, want to devote special attention to U.N. activities by establishing a "watching brief" or otherwise. The same suggestion, incidentally, would apply to the Council of Europe also.
Proposal No. 11.-"Preparing a study of possible economic or trade sanctions or other measures, against regimes judged guilty of systematic repression."
Comment. This, like Proposal No. 9, is a complex area worthy of careful study. We might begin by preparing a catalogue of presently mandated steps within the EC and the U.S. for such sanctions and an assessment of their effectiveness.
Proposal No. 12.-"Developing cooperation between political parties worldwide on the defence of human rights.'
Comment. There are already certain activities underway in this area with much more that can be done. Congressman Fraser will be prepared to give a brief report in London on some of the plans he is aware of in order to obtain the advice and possible assistance of members of both working groups.
PROPOSALS BY THE EP WORKING GROUP ON HUMAN RIGHTS WITH
A VIEW TO THE ADOPTION OF RECOMMENDATIONS
(Paper by Mr. Cousté)
The European members of the Joint Working Group, which was set up after the 10th interparliamentary meeting,' put forward the following proposals to be considered jointly with the American members of the Joint Working Group and the two delegations meeting together, with a view to the adoption of recommendations addressed to their respective authorities.
Proposal No. 1: The setting up of procedures for introducing and adopting joint or parallel resolutions of the two parliaments, condemning systematic violations of human rights.
This procedure requires the setting up of an efficient and rapid system of mutual information and consultation. As far as the European Parliament is concerned, when a matter is considered to be urgent, voting takes place in accordance with the provisions of Rule 14 of its Rules of Procedure. Otherwise, the motion for resolution is referred to the committee responsible, pursuant to Rule 25 of the Rules of Procedure.
The European Parliament Working Group, in which all the political groups are represented, could well be assigned the special task of tabling such motions for resolutions, particularly in urgent cases.
It should also be remembered that if a case of violation of human rights is the subject of a petition within the meaning of Rule 48 of the Rules of Procedure, consideration thereof and action to be taken thereon fall within the competence of the Committee on the Rules of Procedure and Petitions.
Rule 48 of the Rules of Procedure and the general instructions laid down by the Bureau in respect of that particular rule indicate the procedure to be followed. In practice, the President of the European Parliament, after deciding whether or not a letter constitutes a petition, forwards it to the Committee on the Rules of Procedure and Petitions. This committee decides on its admissibility, appoints a rapporteur and, generally, asks for the opinion of the committee competent in the area concerned. When it has received this opinion, there are three types of action it may take on the petition (Rule 48 (4)), namely:
-file it without further action;
-forward it to the Commission or Council;
-report to Parliament.
It is usually the second option which is chosen.
Proposal No. 2: The establishing of ways of intervening as a matter of urgency for humanitarian reasons on human rights transgressions and threats to the lives of individuals.
The purpose of such interventions is to demand the suspension of irremediable acts and condemn political kidnappings or arbitrary arrests which constitute an immediate threat to the personal safety of the victims. These interventions may be made either discreetly or publicly.
1 The Working Group was set up by the European Parliament by decisions of the Enlarged Bureau of 16 December 1976 (PE 47.405/BUR), 11 January 1977 (PE 47.601/ BUR) and 13 January 1977 (PE 47.641/BUR).