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of the fact of America's special historical mission, on a day-to-day basis most Americans, most members of the State Department, and most members of Congress do not see human rights in this way--or do not think they do. The critical outside world of academics, journalists, and foreign intellectuals does not see American foreign policy as ultimately concerned with human rights. The result of overselling the commitment is likely to
directive force of our moral
cynicism both within and without the government. This will detract from the real goal of the State Department, which is serious consideration of American interests in human rights as they exist in the context of competing American
The second objection is more
beyond the Introduction
substantive and carries
to the Report as a whole.
Some years ago we questioned before the Committee the value of mixing economic progress considerations into evaluation of a country's human rights performance. We pointed out how Countries like Cuba and South Korea with good development records were given a false appearance of being less repressive when Country Reports incorporated socioeconomic factors. Improving levels of nutrition, health, and So on are important, but they do not make torture or imprisonment or denials of political equality any less oppressive. They also do not speak to the level of
government performance that most people, including most human rights advocates, actually have in mind when they speak of human rights. viously not due to them, this approach was corrected. Instead of placing a discussion of the "rights to vital needs" between respect for the person and civil and political rights, each country report now has a discussion at the end on the "Economic, Social, and Cultural Situation.' Introduction points out (Page 15), the "right to development" is not a right in the same sense as political and civil rights or the right of a person to his life.
Subsequent to our remarks, but ob
A s this
One of the reasons development is not a right in the same sense is that political and civil rights are claims against the arbitrary power of the state; they are expressions of the control of the citizenry over the state.
the state does with that control is ultimately up to the citizens who have a right to decide, and this is a right outsiders should be very reluctant to constrain. The people of every country have a right to decide on slow development or no development at all.
With these considerations in mind, it appears in retrospect to have been a mistake for the Reagan Administration to depart from the previous policy of seeing human rights violations only as violations by a government of the rights of its citizens.
The Reports now purport to include
violations by opposition groups alongside violations by the government (page 14). This introduces an element of confusion analogous to that previously introduced by the vital needs discussions of the Reports in the 1970s. For example, to take up most of the category "killing," under "Respect for the Integrity of the Person," in the Report on France with a record of terrorist actions distracts from an evalu
ation of the human rights practices of the French government, and does not respond to what Congress and the reader actually wish to know.
My impression is that the mention of terrorism is not
uniform in the Reports.
ters do not know where
to draw the line.
In analogy with
the "rights" to food, employment, and So
forth that the
a "right to be
earlier Reports considered, we might think of protected" that the existence of terrorism suggests is not
being respected in the society in question.
Reports should provide the reader with information levels of violent crime. This would mean that by comparison the United States's record would not look so good.
ly violent crime is an important subject, but a different subject. It is a subject about which the American people should decide and not one to be adjudged by theoretically universal overseers as is implied by the concept of universal human rights.
Actually it appears that terrorism is introduced in
the Reports partly in order to give the reader perspective on why certain governments
are at times restrictive and
oppressive. It is assumed that we will condemn them less if we understand their problems. Everyone can agree that such understanding is necessary--although it can be carried too far. But if understanding is the objective, then terrorism should be treated at the end of each report as a part of the context, as a part of what is labeled the "Economic, Social, and Cultural Situation."
The stated reason the present administration wishes emphasize terrorism is that human rights are not threatened only by governments. There are also private terrorists and internationally financed and trained terrorists that
threaten the integrity of the person and reduce the expression of political and civil rights. This is an important issue, but it is an international problem best dealt with by an appended special discussion of this issue, with specifics as to the extent, type, and origin of such diminutions of
When all is said, however, the Country Reports reprea significant and continuous commitment of the American government to human rights. The present administration's policy has been to advance human rights through quiet diplomacy rather than public criticism. Many in the human rights
community believe that the result has been less of both quiet diplomatic support of human rights and of public critWhatever the case, the Country Reports continue to provide a record of what our government thinks of the human rights situation in every country, and provides a report on the human rights in each country that can be pointed to by friend and foe alike. Reports on friendly countries such as South Africa or Chile may not have the condemnatory tone that human rights advocates would like, and which often is certainly justified, yet generally the facts of oppression are presented clearly and in considerable detail. It is interesting to note that there are more pages devoted to South Africa than to the USSR (exclusive of the Baltic States), more on the Philippines than on Vietnam, more on Guatemala than Nicaragua. In spite of the fact that some of this reporting on friendly countries has an apologetic quality, by and large it does represent an official acknowledgment of the abuses that exist. The Country Reports are in themselves both a quiet protest and a public protest against the oppressions of many countries, left and right, and provide one basis for United States policy. As long as they are produced, no government can ignore them.