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(Human rights apply to all peoples, Richarson says) (1740)

United Nations -- The United Nations must insure that the standards of

freedom and tolerance embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human

Rights "are a reality for future generations," U.S. Ambassador Bill

Richardson said November 12.

In a wide-ranging speech on human rights to the General Assembly's

Third Committee, Richardson said that "in the past few years human

rights abuses from Bosnia to Rwanda captured the world's attention and

showed us once again that the struggle for the recognition and

acceptance of universal human rights is a constant process."

"We must remain resolute against those voices that suggest the

Universal Declaration represents the values of only a portion of

humanity," the ambassador said.

Human rights, he said, "know no geographic or ethnic boundaries."

The United Nations begins a year-long celebration of the 50th

anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in December.

Citing "heartening examples" as well as continuing violations,

Richardson also said that:

-- Guatemala has today become a model for human rights reform;

-- the U.S. hopes the U.N. human rights mission to the Congo will help

give the country the opportunity to play a constructive role in the


-- Cuba remains the only country in the Western Hemisphere that does

not embrace democracy;

-- the human rights situation in Sudan remains deplorable;

-- Tibet suffers disproportionately from China's harsh repression;

-- widespread human rights violations continue in Burma; and

-- the U.S. insists on respect for human rights in Bosnia-Herzegovina,

Croatia and Yugoslavia.

Following is the text of the ambassador's remarks:

(begin text)

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Since its earliest days, the cause of

international human rights has defined the United Nations. As the

world emerged from six years of bloody conflict, after witnessing the

most brutal and heinous atrocities ever committed by man, the desire

for a new era of peace, where  the most basic human rights would be

respected and upheld, informed and inspired the creators of this


This year as we begin to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are reminded that one of the

U.N.'s greatest contributions to humankind is ensuring understanding

that human rights are universal and part of the basic social compact

across the globe. The commemorations planned throughout the world

reaffirming and celebrating the Universal Declaration give us another

opportunity to bring to the attention of all humanity the fundamental

rights that are the birthright of every human being.

Of course, in the past few years human rights abuses from Bosnia to

Rwanda captured the world's  attention and showed us once again that

the struggle for the recognition and acceptance of universal human

rights is a constant process. So long as women are denied educational

and economic opportunity, so long as discrimination based on religion,

ethnicity or skin color continues, and so long as war criminals can

elude justice, we must remain vigilant.

In addition, we must remain resolute against those voices that suggest

the Universal Declaration represents the values of only a portion of

humanity. The United States, which is made up of many cultures and

peoples, vigorously rejects this notion. Human rights, as set forth in

the Universal Declaration, know no geographic or ethnic boundaries.

These rights are inseparable from humanity; indeed,  they apply

universally -- to all peoples, whatever their economic, social, ethnic

or cultural origins.

In the United States, as elsewhere in the world, human rights are a

work in progress. The United States values the opportunity to reflect

on our own human rights record in the light of international

standards, and we welcome the perspectives of others on that record

when they are offered in a constructive spirit.

Our world has undergone massive political, economic and social change

over the past decade. The spread of democracy from South Africa to the

former Soviet Union is bringing new-found rights and opportunities to

millions. In fact, it is difficult to recollect a time in human

history when so many people -- across the globe -- have  enjoyed the

fruits of democracy and freedom. Let me cite some especially

heartening examples.

After 36 years of civil war, Guatemala has today become a model for

human rights reform. Since the 1996 peace accord, almost 200,000

civilians have been demobilized from defense patrols; the military is

being significantly downsized and corrupt officials fired.

In Haiti, which I visited this past summer, significant progress is

being made. In February, 1996 the nation celebrated the first transfer

of power to a democratically elected president. President Rene Preval

has now served almost two years in office and a police force which for

generations terrorized the Haitian people is today being recreated to

protect and serve.

Few places in the world have seen greater and more historic change

than South Africa. In 1994, landmark national elections brought Nelson

Mandela to power as the nation's first democratically elected

president. Just last year we saw the adoption of a new constitution

guaranteeing fundamental rights for all South Africans, whatever the

color of their skin. Today, South Africa's governing institutions and

civil society organizations are consolidating the democratic

transformation. In addition, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

began intensive hearings in 1996 on apartheid-era human rights abuses

and is beginning the difficult and painful process of political


In India the National Human Rights Commission, created in 1993, has
been a major factor in promoting heightened awareness of human rights

concerns among local governments, the police and armed forces and in

the general public. Moreover, it has begun to address serious problems

such as custodial mistreatment and torture.

In April 1997, Yemen held a national parliamentary election in which

more than 3,000 candidates vied for 301 seats. International observers

declared the election substantially free and fair. And women not only

voted in large numbers but two female candidates won seats in

parliament. The United States awaits the continuation of this process

in Yemen's first presidential election planned for 1999.

In my recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I reached a

compromise with President Laurent Kabila to proceed with the U.N.

human rights mission to that country. It is the hope of the U.S.

Government that this mission will provide Congo the opportunity to

begin playing a constructive role in the region.

Unfortunately, of course, there have also been setbacks, as some

countries continue to violate the basic human rights of their

citizens. The following developments are of special concern to the

United States:

Nigeria continues to pursue a tightly controlled "transition" to

civilian democratic rule in 1998. The United States remains skeptical

that elections conducted in the current atmosphere of exclusion and

intimidation will render a credible result. The presumed winner of the

annulled 1993 presidential election, Chief Moshood Abiola, and some

100 other political prisoners remain incarcerated, and government

agents routinely harass and intimidate human rights and pro-democracy


Cuba remains the only country that still fails to embrace democracy in

the Western Hemisphere. Over the past year we have witnessed new and

more sobering examples of the Castro government's patent disregard for

international standards of human rights and its stubborn determination

to deny fundamental freedoms to the Cuban people. Since June 1997 more

than 90 people have been detained, interrogated or arrested for

political reasons, including the four members of the "Dissident

Working Group," which had increased its activity and reached out to

the international community for support.

In Sudan the human rights situation remains deplorable. As noted in

this year's resolution at the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, there

are reports of detention without trial, forced displacement of

persons, torture, slavery, religious persecution, ideological

indoctrination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of racial,

ethnic and religious minorities. The Sudanese government continues to

prevent full and impartial investigations of these grave human rights

violations and has not responded to international pressure to improve

its human rights record.

Widespread human rights violations also continue in Burma, where

hundreds of political prisoners remain detained. Torture and other

mistreatment are commonplace. The May 1990 elections clearly

demonstrate the will of the Burmese people to return to parliamentary

democracy. Regrettably, the military leadership still refuses to hand

over power to a democratically-elected civilian government. We call

for dialogue with the NLD, and look forward to the day when Aung San

Suu Kyi is free to pursue her political future.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

(Serbia and Montenegro) the United States insists upon the

implementation of the Peace Agreement, particularly its human rights

aspects. We address this situation in full, in our draft resolution,

on this subject.

China has taken some steps which may help improve the human rights

situation over the long term. China signed the International Covenant

on  Economic, Social and Cultural rights, agreed to preparatory talks

establishing a forum for Chinese and U.S. NGOs and officials, hosted

the October visit of the U.N. Arbitrary Detention Working Group,

resumed limited cooperation with businessman and human rights activist

John Kamm on prisoner accounting, and invited a distinguished

delegation of U.S. religious leaders to observe Chinese religious

practice. Nevertheless, in China widespread and well-documented human

rights abuses, including severe restrictions on freedom of speech, the

press, assembly, association, religion, privacy and worker rights,

continue unabated. Tibet, in particular, continues to suffer

disproportionately from China's harsh repression. President Clinton

and Secretary Albright recently appointed Gregory Craig as Special

Coordinator on Tibetan issues to monitor the human rights situation

there and promote dialogue between the Government of China and the

Dalai Lama.

Finally, I want to call attention once more to the situations in Iraq

and Iran, where, as the world well knows, respect for the very basics

of human rights is sadly lacking.

Mr. Chairman, freedom of speech, thought and conscience, values always

implicit in the world's great spiritual traditions and now universally

proclaimed, are among the most impressive achievements of human

progress. For 52 years, the United Nations has made an essential

contribution to the global advance of these rights through the

Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our goal must  be to ensure that

the standards of freedom and tolerance embodied in the Universal

Declaration are a reality for future generations. Thank you.

(end text)