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might involve such things as, say, special equipment for purposes of torture, electric shock equipment, or the systematic process of, say, dunking people head first into barrels of water, we have not found evidence of that. We discussed this question with the principal human rights monitoring group in Nicaragua, which is very critical of the Government, the Permanent Commission on Human Rights. They say they have no evidence of that sort of practice.
On the other hand, there is a considerable amount of what one would call police brutality in Nicaragua, particularly in those detention facilities that are outside the regular prison system.
I think it's a question of definition. If you choose to define that kind of police brutality as torture, then it's appropriate to say that there is torture in Nicaragua.
If you choose to say that it requires planned use of particular equipment and things of that sort, for instance, electric shock equipment as is so widely used in Chile, we don't have any evidence of the use of that kind of equipment.
Mr. YATRON. When a government is threatened or a state of emergency should occur, the practice of torture may also rise dramatically.
Now, how can a government be conditioned not to act violently when threatened with extinction?
Mr. NEIER. Well, if you listened to what Mr. Abrams was talking about before in terms of the effort to provoke violence, the logic of that is that a government discredits itself and puts itself in jeopardy when it engages in practices such as torture.
I think there is something to that. I would say that if a government is faced with a serious threat, it becomes all the more incumbent on that government from the standpoint of its own self-interest to behave in a measured and lawful way. It should punish in accordance with law those who commit serious abuses, and do everything it can not to discredit itself, not to alienate the general population in response to any provocation.
I don't see any conflict whatsoever between maintaining security and avoiding practices such as torture. In fact, I would say that there is a complete coincidence between avoiding practices such as torture and maintaining governmental integrity.
Mr. YATRON. Mr. Kostmayer.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. Can you give me some specific information regarding the changes in Guatemala from President Lucas to Rios Montt to Mejia Victores?
Mr. NEIER. Yes.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. I'm interested to hear whether or not, as I gather you do disagree with the prior witness-
Mr. NEIER. Yes.
There certainly are variations in the human rights abuses that took place under the three regimes. In the Lucas period, there were death squads that operated rather freely in Guatemala City and in other cities in Guatemala.
Amnesty International published a report documenting a lot of this activity and making it clear that the death squads were directed from the presidential palace itself.
In the Rios Montt period, that kind of death squad activity within Guatemala City stopped. On the other hand, the Rios Montt
government engaged in an extraordinarily brutal campaign in the countryside, and there were many instances in which large scale massacres took place of Indians residing in the Guatemalan highlands.
It was during the Rios Montt period that many Guatemalans fled the country and crossed the border into Mexico because they were simply being massacred by the armed forces. In addition
Mr. KOSTMAYER. So, quantitatively, there was not a very substantial change?
Mr. NEIER. I would say that quantitatively probably many more people were killed in human rights abuses during the Rios Montt period than during the Lucas period.
It was a shift from the urban areas to the countryside. In the urban areas, instead of death squad activity during the Rios Montt period, Rios Montt created special tribunals which operated secretly.
People were tried secretly. Many of them were tortured to extract confessions from them. A number of them were executed. All this time, they never saw defense lawyers. They never saw judges. They never knew the identity of the judges. They never even knew that they were being tried.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. How can you and the administration disagree so strongly?
Mr. NEIER. Well
Mr. KOSTMAYER. These things are documented.
Mr. NEIER. Those things are extremely well documented. The administration, I think, disagrees primarily in the adjectives that it
I think that if you pin down the administration on particular facts, you'll find that very often they will not quarrel with the particulars. But, they choose to characterize everything that is taking place in terms of, well, "progress toward democracy." They will point out that the government had announced a plan for elections, or they'll say there are improvements by comparison with what took place previously.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. In this case, to stay away from adjectives, that's there is not improvement.
Mr. NEIER. There is no improvement.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. It's best to stick to numbers.
Mr. NEIER. Yes.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. And facts, and not get into adjectives.
Mr. NEIER. Guatemala is a tough case in terms of numbers because no human rights organization is able to operate within the country. It's simply too dangerous for human rights organizations to function within the country. When we have collected information in Guatemala, part of the process we have had to use was to send people into the country unannounced, not disclosing what their function was, and have them travel around the countryside collecting information.
It's a very dangerous thing to do, and it's not an easy country in which to get information. Numbers are virtually impossible once you use that kind of technique for gathering information.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. I have a rollcall in another committee. I want to ask one more question.
This judgment that we ought to be totally evenhanded in terms of human rights violations between our friends and foes seems to me to be a fairly unrealistic one, frankly.
Idealistic and proper, but it seems to me to violate the human nature. We are not going to treat out friends and our enemies alike, either as a country or as individuals.
If you have a friend and a foe and each make a mistake, you're going to handle them differently, and it seems to me that the human rights movements in this country need to recognize this and come up with an answer which is, I think, more realistic, but which also speaks to solving the problem which I think all of us want to solve.
I say that not by way of criticism.
Mr. NEIER. Mr. Kostmayer, if I may respond to that, I think there are different functions that are performed by human rights groups and that should be performed by a Human Rights Bureau within the administration.
One function is the reportorial function. Simply gathering information. It seems to me that
Mr. KOSTMAYER. I just said something that the gentleman from New York would probably agree with, although I'm sorry that he wasn't here when I said it.
Mr. SOLOMON. I welcome you to repeat it.
Mr. NEIER. It seems to me when you're gathering the information and when you're reporting the information, you have a responsibility to be as evenhanded as is humanly possible and not ever to distort the information.
Then, there is the question of what techniques you pursue to try to secure amelioration? It seems obvious that there are going to be different techniques that are used when a country is a friend or when a country is a foe.
If a country is a foe, and you have virtually no relations, of course, you have no opportunity to deal quietly with that country and to try to seek amelioration in that fashion.
And, so, public statement is the first resort. When you have friendly relations, it is understandable that one would try to deal privately with a country and try to secure amelioration in that fashion before you go public.
But, I think it's when we confuse the technique of amelioration with the duty to report honestly that we get into trouble. It is when you distort your reporting in order to serve your other policies that the worse difficulties take place.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. Well, I agree, I agree entirely with that. I think that the human rights groups have an obligation to report the facts regardless of what country they occur in.
I think you the Government and the President-obviously operate under some constraints that you don't operate under, and you have a different function than we do. But, your obligation, I think, is to hold us to a higher standard, and I recognize the purpose, and I think it's an important one.
I only wish that we were able to honor that higher standard more frequently than we are, especially our own country. This is why I quarrel with this distinction between friends and foes.
We ought to be-the United States ought to be more appalled at human rights violations committed by our friends than by our foes, in my opinion.
Mr. NEIER. I disagree. I think we ought to be equally appalled, regardless of who commits abuses. I think that it's torture we're looking at, in Afghanistan or Guatemala.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. I think we have less control over what's happening in Afghanistan than El Salvador.
Mr. NEIER. We ought to be equally appalled.
Mr. KOSTMAYER. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you.
Mr. SOLOMON. I would agree with my colleague from Pennsylvania and the gentleman testifying that we should be equally appalled.
I would take some exception, though, with some of your statements. You talk about the administration violating laws that prohibit military and economic assistance to countries, but my question to you is, who provides that assistance?
It isn't the President of the United States; it isn't the administration; it's this gentleman sitting right here, the chairman of our subcommittee. It's this gentleman from Pennsylvania, right here, the gentleman walking out of the door.
We are the ones that provide all this military and economic assistance to all these countries that you're talking about.
So, let's share the blame, OK?
Mr. NEIER. Congressman, I think that's partially correct and partially incorrect.
Mr. SOLOMON. Right. There are exceptions.
Mr. NEIER. It's incorrect in the sense that the Congress does not control the votes on multilateral development bank loans. The Congress does not license arms sales to various countries.
For instance, the recent sale of helicopter spare parts to Guatemala was something that was in the purview of the administration; it's not a question of the Congress having to sell helicopter spare parts to Guatemala.
Indeed the Congress, up to now, has resisted direct aid to Guatemala.
Mr. SOLOMON. There are exceptions on both sides, but I just wanted to make sure that we all share that blame.
And, you also said that
Mr. NEIER. I'm going to blame quite a few people.
Mr. SOLOMON. You also said that America is not perceived worldwide as a champion of human rights. But where do the defectors, the refugees, the escapees from these repressive regimes, whether they be left or right, where do they want to come?
I've been in Ethiopia and have talked to just plain people. I've been in El Salvador, and in many other places. I don't share your perception at all.
I perceive these people around the world as believing that we are champions of human rights, civil rights, of democracy. And they all want to come here.
Any time Communist insurgents take over a country, 10 percent of the people flee. And where do they want to flee to? The United States.
Mr. NEIER. Congressman, if I may refine the point, it seems to me that it is recognized worldwide that human rights are practiced within the United States.
I think that people do come, and do try to come, to the United States because of that perception. But, it is also perceived worldwide that the United States supports and even sponsors some brutally repressive regimes elsewhere.
And, very often, you have the phenomenon that refugees flee a country that the United States supports that is brutally repressive. Those refugees are simultaneously antagonistic to the United States because of what it has done within their own country, and, yet, they come here because they recognize that the United States practices human rights within the United States.
I think that perception may more accurately characterize the situation than the global perception that you suggested.
Mr. SOLOMON. Well, just in closing, let me say that I think you're partly correct. There is a perception among certain elements who agree with what you said. But by and large, the vast rank and file of people who are right don't accept that, in my opinion.
And, just like there are elements in the United States believe what you said, the vast majority of the American people think that we are champions of human rights. So, it's a question, I guess, of who-what element you're listening to.
And I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. YATRON. Thank you, Mr. Solomon.
Mr. Neier, we thank you very much for coming here today.
Mr. NEIER. Thank you very much.
Mr. YATRON. Our next witnesses will speak as a panel, and they will explain how they have used their knowledge and skills to combat torture.
The witnesses are Juan Gonzalez, a medical doctor from Chile; accompanied by Carlos Trejo, also a medical doctor from Chile. They are both members of the Chilean Medical Association.
Also on the panel are Juan Mendez, director of the Washington office of Americas Watch; Millard Arnold, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, and a board member of numerous human rights organizations; Alexander Voloshanovich, a former Soviet psychiatrist; and Prudencio Baltodano, a victim of torture from Nicaragua.
We say welcome to all of you, and we will lead off with our first witness, Dr. Gonzalez. You may proceed sir. I would like to suggest, if possible, that you could summarize your statements in a few minutes; the entire prepared statement will be included in the record.
If this is at all possible, we would appreciate it.
STATEMENT OF JUAN GONZALEZ, M.D., ACCOMPANIED BY CARLOS TREJOS, M.D., CHILEAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION Dr. GONZALEZ. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.