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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 was— do 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?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. They did not send a representative. They also did not, in accordance with the action taken by the Human Rights Commission the previous year, respond in a manner that showed that they would cooperate, let alone that the response was satisfactory, that they were trying to be at all responsive toward the questions of human rights or violations.
Mr. BONKER. Was that the only country that did not show up that was requested to in this procedure?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. There were other countries that did not, unfortunately. I will be glad to supply for the record in writing the proceedings of who did and who did not respond, but since it is a confidential procedure, I am not at liberty to go into the exact specifics, but I will be glad to supply that to the subcommittee.
[The information follows:]
The Commission considered situations concerning 10 countries under its confidential procedures. Of the 10 countries, all but two were represented during the Commission's discussions of their respective country situations.
Mr. BONKER. Did Uganda show up?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. The answer is yes, they showed up, and they are a member of the Commission, so it is rather difficult for them not to show up if they are a member of the Commission. Yes, they did show up.
I see the vote was 20 votes in favor, 3 against, with 9 abstensions, So when I gave the breakdown of the numbers, most of the people who did not go along with it abstained.
In addition to that action on the confidential procedure, there was discussion and we made a public statement. We mentioned the Helsinki monitors, we mentioned the 22 Soviet monitors, which had never been done before in terms of public session.
We also talked about an area of congressional concern. That was a matter regarding the history of genocide and specifically the massacre of the Armenians. A number of delegations spoke on that matter, and the United States did, as well.
Now, on the negative side, we should point out that there was no action taken on missing persons, although there was action on Chile, but not on the overall problem of missing persons which we felt should have been taken, but the Commission did not, basically because Third World countries felt that it should be postponed.
Another matter that there was no action taken on this year was Cambodia. Another area that did not receive the focus of attention that we would have hoped it would have, would have been the problem of the causes of refugees, the mass exodus of refugees.
So we have those negative factors, coupled with the issues that I mentioned at the beginning, and one other factor. Since you mentioned the reform, or the restructuring of the U.N., there is a move now for taking the Human Rights Commission and beginning to expand it, not only in terms of numbers, but longer meetings, two sessions of which President Carter talked about and begin to give it the focus of attention that it deserves.
With that, let me just raise a very brief point about the politicization of the Commission and the double standard. It is true that it is much easier to draft instruments, but when you have to implement
those instruments, it poses problems, especially when the number of countries that sit on the Commission itself have human rights violations.
That is a key problem area.
The second key problem area is when you get involved in the Commission that involves countries. They will play politics as shown by Cambodia, as shown by the time that we immediately began the Commission session. We had resolutions and options against Israel. They were very strong, very condemnatory, and very political and openly admitted as being political.
We see that there was no hesitation among certain countries to condemn Chile but they hesitated to condemn, or shall we say, even speak out about other countries that may involve political alliances that they may have, specifically Eastern Europe-some problems here. We have another problem, which is our own, that is domestic. We have blemishes ourselves. We are far from perfect. We should admit that. As well as we try to do it, we had testimony about problems with the American Indians. We have continued comments that we, in fact, have not ratified international agreements, the covenants. We have not even ratified the Genocide Treaty which has been around for over 25 years.
Those issues are continually laid in front of us. It puts us in a posture that what we say is somewhat defensive at the same time that we are trying to advocate and be positive on the issue of human rights. We acknowledge that. We say that we welcome criticism. We do not have to be defensive about criticism in a society which prides itself on being open. We have a Congress; we have the courts; we have the Civil Rights Commission, but it is a problem area and it is a problem area when we, in fact, have not ratified certain basic, international agreements that are fundamental.
Some countries may ratify those agreements and may not want to live up to that ratification. But that still does not answer the problem and question of ratification.
So, in summary, Mr. Chairman, I would say that the Commission has an opportunity to bring to the forefront some human rights questions. It has done that. Some strides have been made. They have been slow. They have been glacierlike in many ways. There is, and there has been a double standard, but the process is moving. It is beginning to slide slowly and perhaps not as fast as some would like in broadening it and not having a double standard.
We are moving in terms of drafting certain international instruments, as pointed out by the Torture Convention and the Religious Declaration, but we should not make it out to be more than what it is. It is a forum that can lead itself to political discussion and dialog. It can be used for political purposes.
That does not mean that it is not a positive force; it still can be. I think we have made some gains; we have made some strides, but we still have a way to go, and hopefully we can live up to the basic charter declaration that says that the ideals and historical principles upon which our Government is based require that we give our best efforts in the United Nations to supporting programs and actions by the U.N. to achieve the charter goal to encourage greater respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
It is a slow process, but it is one that we should be continually committed to, and hopefully can improve upon. Thank you.
Mr. BONKER. Thank you, Mr. Mezvinsky, for an excellent statement and for reporting to the subcommittee the progress of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
[Mr. Mezvinsky's prepared statement follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF EDWARD M. MEZVINSKY, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE TO THE UNITED NATIONS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
THE 35TH SESSION OF THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS-AN ASSESSMENT OF UNITED STATES PARTICIPATION
The United Nations Charter establishes the promotion of human rights as one of the purposes of the Organization and provides for the setting up of a Commission on Human Rights. We regard this Commission as the key organ for the pursuit of the United Nations goals in the field of human rights. Our overriding concern, therefore, is to assure that the Commission functions as effectively as possible. In recent years, this has meant that we have concentrated our efforts upon improving the methods of work of the Commission so that the Commission can deal in as evenhanded a manner as possible with human rights problem areas throughout the world. We have also been concerned that the full range of human rights be dealt with, without attaching priority to any particular group of rights.
These two concerns led to the emphasis which the United States Delegation gave to our participation of the 35th session of the Commission. As usual the Commission was faced with a very heavy agenda. One item of overriding significance during the session was that which had the title, "Alternative approaches and ways and means within the United Nations System for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms." Under this item the Commission undertook at the request of the United Nations General Assembly. An overall analysis of the human rights program in the United Nations. Another item to which we attached special importance was a recurring item which appears annually on the agenda relating to violations of human rights.
Under this item are considered those country situations which have been determined by a Subcommittee of the Commission to involve a consistent pattern of gross violations of human rights. In a sense, this item complements a number of other separate items on the Commission's agenda which deal with individual country situations as a result of initiatives taken by Member States on the Commission. I refer in particular to allegations concerning violations of human rights in the occupied territories of the Middle East, to the question of human rights in Chile, and to human rights in southern Africa. Other items of special interest concerned the drafting of an International Convention Against Torture, the drafting of a Declaration on Religious Intolerance, a discussion of measures to encourage the establishment of national human rights machinery, and, finally, the consideration of the Report of the Commission's Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. This latter report covers the important work done annually by the Subcommission, which plays the key role in screening the thousands of private communications which are received each year by the United Nations in order to identify those situations, to which I referred above, appearing to reveal a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights.
My summary of those items on the agenda which to us appear the most important, is not meant to suggest that many of the other items on the Commission's agenda were not also of primary importance. A drawing of distinctions among the agenda items is an inescapable consequence of the Commission's crowded agenda. Human rights in the United Nations is becoming more and more encompassing and there is an endless flow of subjects which can be addressed in a timely fashion by the Commission. The key problem then is one of time. In our view, we need longer Commission sessions, or additional sessions during each year. This is a long-term goal which we have set for ourselves. It is one to which President Carter referred when he addressed the United Nations in March 1977.