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Yes, it is used, it is cited. We give the reasons for the citation, and when we explain it, we say our policy is a policy based on Executive action, but also strong congressional support.
As you know, some of the actions that were taken regarding human rights were started by the Congress prior to this administration rather than this administration's simply citing it.
Mr. BONKER. Is it widely considered as an authentic document? Mr. MEZVINSKY. Oh, yes, it is available there, people ask for it. In particular, some countries cite it and are very upset by the citation. They do not care to be cited publicly. They do not care, at the same time, that when we meet the first week, the press that covers that will note the countries who are cited and the problem areas that exist.
It is used and, shall we say, viewed positively by some, but with some degree of skepticism by others.
Mr. BONKER. How about other reports, Amnesty International, Freedom House?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. The Amnesty International reports, the International Commission of Jurists, those reports are also cited. They are supported. It is interesting to note the nongovernmental organizations play a very key role in the Human Rights Commission but if they target, or begin to focus, on a particular country, that country will criticize the particular organization, namely Amnesty International. Specifically Ethiopia, to give you an example: Amnesty International has taken a very strong position regarding Ethiopia, and in Ethiopia, the government does not which was publicly released, by the way, in their newspaper; the day of the testimony, they publicly released the confidential speech that was used, that was meant to be confidential, but they are not at all happy with Amnesty International. Mr. BONKER. Let's pursue Ethiopia, for a moment. You said under the confidential procedures that have been established, that 10 countries face charges for at least inquiries about human rights conditions and are invited to appear before the committee?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Right.
Mr. BONKER. Not the Commission, but a committee?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. No, they go before the Commission.
Mr. BONKER. The entire Commission, but it is confidential?
Mr. BONKER. In closed session.
I would be interested, can you share with the subcommittee in open session how that works? Are the charges read and the country asked to respond? Do they know in advance the charges and have a prepared response?
Take Ethiopia as an example.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. The procedures are that a complaint is filed before the Commission, the subcommission of the Commission that meets in the summer. The complaints are filed; private organizations such as Amnesty International, private groups, file complaints. Specifically with Ethiopia, Amnesty International is involved with that.
That goes through a process. The subcommission has to make a motion whether or not the case was such that it shows a consistent pattern of gross violations.
Mr. BONKER. Is there a full-time staff that works on this?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Yes, the full-time staff of the Commission, there is a division of human rights that handles complaints. In this case, there are the thousands of complaints that are submitted by different countries and if I am not mistaken, some 30,000 to 50,000 communications were filed before the Human Rights Commission based on different countries and specifically in this case Ethiopia.
That process goes-assuming there is a recommendation from the subcommission that comes to the Commission, the Commission then sets up a working group to sift through-a working group of five. That working group makes a study of the case and then recommends actions to the Commission. The Commission meets in closed session and they weigh the options.
The options are the following: They can dismiss it; the Commission can say, look, the case is not very strong. We think it does not show a consistent pattern of gross violation and dismiss it. Up to last year, there had been no action taken on any country, even under the confidential procedure.
Last year, the process started of which Ethiopia was cited last year, along with Uganda, as well as seven other countries.
They can also say the case is a strong case, but it should be simply kept under review and that is it, basically kept under review. We will review the documentation; we will listen to some of the organizations that may complain.
Third, they may appoint some kind of an expert to study it. The next step, they could appoint the committee to take a look at it, or they could say the case is so bad, we are getting no cooperation, we should not put it under a confidential procedure, it should be public.
Those are the options.
In the case of Ethiopia, it stayed under the 1503 procedures and action was taken. In the case I mentioned with Equatorial Guinea, the case was such they felt that you could not be effective under the confidential procedures. Since you could not be effective, there was only one vehicle to go and the vehicle was to go public.
The reason that is given for the confidential procedure is that this is viewed as more effective than the public resolution and that there is followup of forces of the country and officials in that country to respond. But the process is still starting; as Congressman Buchanan points out, it takes a while; the process is slow: I can say from my personal experience in 2 years, it is very frustrating.
But that does not mean that the process itself cannot be a good one, but it is a frustrating, slow process, that can lend itself to politics, no question about it.
Mr. BONKER. In Ethiopia's case, I think it is noteworthy that the country is concerned about the charges and that it would make an appearance. That, in itself, is a means of promoting human rights standards.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. I can say that they not only made an appearance, but there was a great deal of questioning from a whole host of countries on that particular question. In some cases, the case of Ethiopa was one of the most unprecedented cases. That as I pointed out, is
very unusual to have a country have to come in and answer. Not only in the case of Ethiopia, but in other countries.
Mr. BONKER. You know when Paul Tsongas and I were in the Horn of Africa a few years ago, and spent a few days in Ethiopia, 2 days longer than we wanted to, the airport was tied up with Russian planes coming in and we saw dead bodies all over the streets of Ethiopia.
Finally we got in to see the colonel, and in our discussion with him, we raised this human rights issue and said, colonel, we have been all over your city. We have seen people indiscriminantly killed and it looked like, to us, that it is a very dangerous place to live. You are violating human rights in the worst sort of way.
He looked puzzled and he said, gentlemen, this is a revolution. Those dead people you saw out there are counterrevolutionaries and we need to purify the revolution. And this was his means of coming to power and purging those who were against the regime. But he did not see it as a human rights problem.
Then he proceeded to give us a hard time because we supported Haile Selassie, who also was a perpetrator of human rights violations and reminded us that our Government said nothing about Haile Selassie's abuses—in fact, we even supported him fully throughout that period of time.
But it is good to see they are sensitive enough to where they would. come before the Commission and at least respond to the charges that have been made.
Let me see. I just have a few more questions.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. I might point out, by the way, I cited your visit in our public statement when I talked about that. I cited the fact, when I talked about Ethiopia, and there is a lot of sensitivity, that, in fact, two members of Congress went to Ethiopia and had to step over dead bodies in the street.
But you are right, they used the argument that this is not a human. rights issue; this is economic development. So I can understand the kind of response that you got.
Mr. BONKER. That is very interesting, how other people perceive their actions and our reactions to what they are doing. The President's report on reform of restructuring the U.N. came to us in March of 1978. It contained several proposals to perfect the U.N. Human Rights machinery. Included are the following items:
It should work to strengthen the existing special procedures for dealing with private communications on human rights matters; the more expeditious consideration by the Commission of evidence under 1503 procedures should be followed; that we should schedule more frequent regular sessions of the Commission; and that we should increase coordination among regional rights organs and we should have an Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights.
I might add as a sixth item, Congressman Buchanan's suggestion, that we should elevate the position of U.S. Representative to the ambassadorial rank.
How would you respond to some of these recommendations? Are you consciously working, or is Mr. Hewitt's agency working, to proceed with implementation of some of these proposals?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Warren, would you care to comment on that in terms of answering that, to give a view of how the process is working? Then I will followup?
I think you should hear from the Department, since Mr. Hewitt has worked on this.
STATEMENT OF WARREN HEWITT, DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF HUMAN RIGHTS, BUREAU FOR INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. HEWITT. Those proposals that you mentioned were prepared in the State Department and we certainly support them very strongly 1 year later. It has been our policy to seek to implement them as rapidly as possible. I cannot say we have made extraordinarily progress but, for example, as concerns the 1503 procedures, the first item you mentioned, you have already heard how we did succeed in getting a full-scale discussion of cases under these procedures this time.
We have encouraged the consideration of evidence at an interim stage, which is another proposal we made for improving those procedures.
Another item that we wanted to make progress on was the scheduling of more frequent meetings of the Commission. This came up for detailed discussion at this session of the Commisson, when we went through an overall analysis of the whole human rights structure. The resolution that finally came out was the product of a number of compromises: The resolution reflected the points of view of not only ourselves but of governments whose interest in the Human Rights Commission is of a much different nature than ours. The most that we could secure on the point of more frequent sessions was an agreement that we should extend the session of the Commission by an extra week. It would now meet, if this is carried out, 6 weeks every year rather than 5. This is a small step forward.
In addition, we got agreement that we should plan for the holding of special sessions for particular work that needed to be done in between sessions.
We also got agreement that there should be some procedure set up to take care of emergency sessions. I think we have made notable progress in securing a more active schedule for the Human Rights Commission, as well as for its officers and special working groups throughout the year.
Mr. BONKER. Do you agree with Congressman Buchanan that there is a problem with communication between the State Department here and our official delegation in Geneva?
Mr. HEWITT. Yes; it is certainly a problem that is accentuated by the fact that we are so far away in Geneva. We do not have the technical problem of speedy communication when the meetings are in New York, because we have telephone communications at will. We always have to combat the time difference-6 hours difference-which puts us way ahead of the Department in getting instructions out in time for us to use them.
Congressman Buchanan's comment, I think, was partly commenting on the technical problems of communicating long distances and short
Also, the problem involves the identification of areas where there. should be more leeway given to the U.S. Representative to make up his own mind on the scene. I think that is a problem that bears examination. To what extent do you attribute to your Representative, not only on the Human Rights Commission, but in any meeting, the power and the trust even to make decisions on the spot which touch upon basic policy guidelines. For example, in the Iranian oil case, you have already heard the mixed considerations that went into that one, the final instruction to vote no.
But I do think it is an area that needs improvement. I do not know whether we will ever have the ideal situation.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Ideally you would have the person be an independent expert, or be not a governmental official and classified as such. Then he could act accordingly. Then, of course, the decisions would be individual decisions, not governmental decisions. That is a problem with anybody, with any organ, namely the U.N. Human Rights Commission where you are acting for your government, because the government has certain policies and some of those policies may not be all human rights factors, there are other factors, and that is the conflict, I think, that sets in.
Mr. BONKER. At the last session of the Helsinki accords in Belgrade?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Yes.
Mr. BONKER. Our official representative was a former member of the Supreme Court.
Mr. MEZVINSKY. Arthur Goldberg.
Mr. BONKER. Arthur Goldberg.
It seemed to me that he had discretion, at least he gave that impression, to act on a whole variety of issues relating to matters there. Mr. MEZVINSKY. Yes. I think you have to decide that there is some discretion, yes, and I think that was somewhat the case.
Mr. BONKER. No one is responding to Mr. Buchanan's suggestion of an ambassadorial rank. I do not know whether that is a sensitive subject within the State Department. Would that help?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. I think for the mere sake of rank, yes, but we should not make it out to be more than what it is.
I think the problem he raises is deeper than just rank. I think it goes to some fundamental policy considerations. It goes to tactics; it goes to communications.
So yes, I think that rank is a factor, but I do not think it is the overriding factor. I think the problem he raises, whether or not we are in total agreement, goes much deeper than just the ranking. In fact, his point on the rank is probably well made.
Mr. BONKER. One last question. You mentioned, on the agenda, that the Commission considered such things as the Torture Convention and Declaration of Religious Tolerance, and then confidential procedures as well. Was there official action or a vote taken on the first two?
Mr. MEZVINSKY. On the Declaration on Religious Tolerance there was a vote. There was a hesitancy to have any vote. They broke the so