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As director of the Helsinki Watch Committee, I would like to point out that among the Helsinki signatory countries that violate human rights, with the exception of those on Turkey and Yugoslavia, the State Department reports contain excellent sections-on the U.S.S.R., on Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Poland, for example.
The reports on these countries are distinguished by solid, carefully researched information, attention to nuance and, for the most part, the avoidance of politically motivated exaggeration.
Mr. Posner mentioned a sensitized Foreign Service as a product of the process of compiling the country reports. I would like to mention another area in which the reports also have influence. The U.S. Helsinki Watch Committee is a member of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. I have observed that our West European counterparts are extremely interested in the State Department reports and, I might add, in our critique of those reports. I wish to stress the fact that the State Department reports have international impact not just on the countries whose practices are criticized but on human rights organizations in other countries who wish to use the reports, as we do, in their work. The credibility of the reports is thus seriously scrutinized by private groups outside the United States as well as within.
As Mr. Neier points out in his prepared testimony, our critique contains many favorable comments about the 1982 country reports. The professionalism that is evident in the compilation of the reports indicates the Department of State has now accepted their legitimacy and value in an institutional way.
This is an important development, for which the Bureau of Human Rights and the leadership of the Department of State deserve credit. Our critique and the criticisms we voice in our testimony are intended to prod the Department to do an even better job in the future. Thank you very much.
[Mr. Neier's prepared statement submitted by Jeri Laber follows:]
PREPARED STATEMENT OF ARYEH NEIER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, U.S. HELSINKI WATCH COMMITTEE
My name is Aryeh Neier. I am Vice Chairman of the
Committee, and I am Adjunct Professor of Law at New York
In conjunction with the Lawyers Committee for In-
I submit that
Critique for the record. I will not repeat the infor-
In the introduction to the Critique we state that
information on human rights worldwide" and that the Department of State's efforts in compiling the Country Reports have been "responsible, though seriously flawed." My testimony focuses on the serious flaws, but I hope the Committee will not lose sight of our overall assessment that the work we are criticizing was conducted responsibly and that the product is an essential document.
The first and most important criticism is that the reports on some countries have been tailored to serve the political purposes of the Reagan Administration. An example is the report on Argentina. The Reagan Administration has repeatedly stated that certification that Argentina is complying with the human rights conditions of the 1981 foreign assistance act is "under active consideration." Administra
tion officials have said that they believe that Argentina presently meets the conditions for certification specified in U.S. law. That law requires that the President shall consider "efforts by the Government of Argentina to provide information on citizens identified as 'disappeared'" in determining whether to certify that there "is significant progress" on human rights. Accordingly, the 1982 Country Reports assert that the Argentine Government "is believed to have provided information to family members on the deaths and in some instances the location of the remains of the disappeared in about 1,450 cases.'
The Americas Watch maintains close contact with the
human rights organizations in Argentina for whom the question of an accounting for the disappeared is central. Several of these are organizations of families of the disappeared. These organizations all assert that they know of no accounting and had never previously heard the figure of 1,450 cases cited in the Country Reports. To date, our efforts to establish where the State Department obtained this figure have only led back to the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. We cannot establish where the Embassy got this figure. Absent substantion for it, we consider that it was irresponsible to include it in the 1982 Country Reports as it deals with a matter of extraordinary importance and sensitivity. The only basis we can see for including such unsubstantiated information in the 1982 Country Reports is to establish a foundation for the Reagan Administration's claim that the Argentine government has complied with a specific criterion for certification specified in U.S. law. Tailoring the Country Reports to serve such a political purpose is inappropriate, in our view.
Another serious flaw in the 1982 Country Reports derives from the evident desire of its authors to exculpate current leaders considered friends of the United States of blame for human rights abuses. President Rios Montt of Guatemala, President Evren of Turkey, President Zia of Pakistan and
President Mobutu of Zaire are among those favored in this
For example, in the case of Turkey, the report devotes considerable attention to the terrorist violence that preceded the accession to power of the Evren government in 1980 but, even though the report is supposed to deal with developments in 1982, minimizes the government-sanctioned terrorism that has taken place under Evren. It glosses over reports of torture by the Evren government during 1982, glosses over the Evren government's stifling of all public criticism of the new Turkish Constitution, and fails to mention the blatant unfairness in the way in which the Evren government conducted the referendum in which the Constitution was adopted. Similarly, in dealing with Guatemala, the Country Report attempts to exculpate President Rios Montt by
asserting that, "since Rios Montt came to power
Actually, this is
been a decrease in the level of killings."
Another serious flaw in the 1982 Country Reports is the attempt that is made to absolve governments of responsibility for gross abuses of human rights committed by their agents. The report on El Salvador is an example. It attributes political murders to "extremes of the right and the left" and asserts that "some groups associated with the military