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AMNASSADOR RICHARDSON'S U.N.G.A. RE
- Subject: AMNASSADOR RICHARDSON'S U.N.G.A. RE
- From: moe@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Wed, 19 Nov 1997 07:36:00
TITLE:14-11-97 TEXT: AMBASSADOR RICHARDSON'S UNGA REMARKS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
(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:
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
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
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
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.