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[burma case discussed]
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09 November 1998 


(Cites oppression of women as particular concern of US) (3120)

United Nations -- Condemning the Taliban's treatment of women and
girls in Afghanistan, acting US Ambassador to the United Nations Peter
Burleigh said November 9 that "the world will simply not accept a
government that denies women their human rights, access to education,
health care, and employment."

In remarks to the UN General Assembly's General Assembly's Third
Committee, Burleigh said oppression of women and girls is of
particular concern to the United States.

The Ambassador said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
which will mark its 50th Anniversary in December, is a vehicle to
combat such abuses of human rights. "It may often be difficult, but
the cause is too great. The world together must continue to fight for
all human rights for all."

Like many nations, he said, the United States has struggled with the
fight for true equality and continues to work for civil rights and
justice. "But injustice and oppression will never be addressed until
they are recognized and named aloud or until nations are called to

Burleigh cited these additional examples of human rights abuses during
the past year:

-- The continued suffering of the Burmese people under one of the most
repressive authoritarian military regimes in the world;

-- The consistent failure of North Korea to provide even the most
basic sustenance for its people, who cannot be separated from its
pervasive and all intrusive regime;

-- The lack of human rights progress in Cuba in the nine months since
the visit of Pope John Paul II;

-- The deterioration of the already unacceptable human rights
situation in the Great Lakes region of Africa since the outbreak of
renewed conflict in the Congo in August;

-- The continued egregious violations of human rights in the Sudan,
where some of the worst such abuses in the world "continue seemingly
unnoticed and often unreported";

-- Serious and frequent human rights violations by the authoritarian
regime ruling Belarus;

-- The torture and extra-judicial killings of ethnic Albanian
civilians in Kosovo and their forced displacement from their homes.

However, Burleigh said, there have been some positive developments. He
noted that China has taken several positive steps toward developing
greater respect for human rights. He also pointed to significant
improvements in Nigeria during the past four months and efforts by
President Khatami in Iran to advance the rule of law and international
dialogue in that country.

Following is the US Mission text as prepared for delivery:

(begin text)

799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017

NOVEMBER 9, 1998

Statement by Ambassador A. Peter Burleigh, Charge d'affaires, a.i., of
the United States Mission to the United Nations, on Agenda Items 110
(b) (c) and (e) "Human Rights," in the Third Committee, November 9,

Thank you Mr. Chairman. This year we mark the 50th Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fifth anniversary of the
World Conference on Human Rights. And yet this year, the High
Commissioner for Human Rights reports that "violations of human rights
continue to dominate the international agenda." In Vienna five years
ago, the world agreed that the promotion and protection of all human
rights is a legitimate concern of the international community. And
yet, the High Commissioner tells us that "faced with claims that these
matters are internal affairs, the international community often
appears unwilling or unable to act."

The Universal Declaration proclaimed fundamentals of human dignity and
freedom for all people in all nations. With the agreement that
"democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental
freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing," the Vienna
Declaration and Programme of Action mainstreamed human rights into the
international consensus on public policy. We must continue this work,
for it defines the United Nations.

In the United States, we are well aware of our own shortcomings. We
know our own history better than any other. Like many nations, we have
struggled with the fight for true equality and we continue to work for
civil rights and justice at home. But injustice and oppression will
never be addressed until they are recognized, and named aloud, or
until nations are called to account.

Today I would like to highlight some of our concerns with human rights
around the world, where again this year we have witnessed genocide,
slavery, racial warfare, and the brutal oppression of minorities and
dissenters. Of particular concern is the continued oppression of women
and girls.

Mr. Chairman, oppression takes many forms, and it is clear that in the
absence of civil and political rights, countries will often be
condemned to poverty and underdevelopment, but likewise, that extreme
poverty itself inhibits the enjoyment of human rights.

For twenty years, Afghanistan has struggled for liberation and to
establish a stable government, which respects human rights. We are
deeply concerned by reports of ethnic-based mass arrests and summary
execution, religious persecution, deportations, rape and abuses
against women. The reported slaughter of Shia minorities in
Mazar-i-Sharif, and the murder of Iranian diplomats there is

The entire world has condemned the Taliban's treatment of women and
girls. They are truly Afghanistan's silenced, not silent, but silenced
majority. The world simply will not accept a government that denies
women their human rights, including access to education, health care,
and employment.

The people of Burma also continue to suffer under one of the most
repressive authoritarian military regimes in the world. The human
rights record of the SPDC regime can only be described as dismal. In
the last weeks, we have learned of the death of U Aung Min in the
custody of the authorities. Aung Min was one of the many NLD deputies
who were detained arbitrarily as part of the military government's
years-long effort to suppress a parliament freely elected by the
people of Burma. We call on the SPDC to enter into a meaningful
dialogue with the political opposition, including Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, and we look to the good offices of the Secretary General to
ensure that such a dialogue begins swiftly.

If Burma fails to come to a national reconciliation, it will continue
to suffer its decades long plight of narcotics abuse and trafficking,
lack of education, and widespread poverty. Once Burma breaks its
inertia and embraces a meaningful national dialogue -- with the
democratic opposition government, the international community can do
its part to support Burma's transition to democracy.

Perhaps nowhere else in the world today is there as clear an
illustration of the linkage between political and economic rights as
in North Korea. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has
made no discernible progress this year, and continues its notoriously
poor human rights record. The consistent failure of the DPRK to
provide even the most basic sustenance for its people cannot be
separated from its persuasive and all-intrusive regime. The United
States would like to see the North Korean government take positive
steps to respect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, which
would undoubtedly meet with unanimous approval from the international

In the Western Hemisphere, despite an overwhelming move to democracy,
the decades-long status quo in Cuba continues unabated. Freedom of
speech, assembly, and association remain severely restricted. The
exercise of these rights leads to harassment, arrest and imprisonment.
The Cuban regime allows no avenue to effect a change in government.

Little has changed in Cuba in the nine months since the visit of Pope
John Paul II. Instead, some 30 dissidents and human rights defenders
have been detained or arrested and a number of independent journalists
tried. Recently, the Cuban government filed charges against the
leaders of the Dissident Working Group who have been detained since
July, 1997 for criticizing the Cuban Communist Party Congress and
calling for democratic change. Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque,
Felix Bonne and Rene Gomez are now charged with "sedition" and "acts
against state security," offenses the very nature of which illustrate
the state's instruments of oppression. More than 400 dissidents and
human rights activists are in prison as we meet today.

In the Great Lakes region of Africa, the already unacceptable human
rights situation has further deteriorated this year with the outbreak
of hostilities in August. Thousands of civilians have already been
killed. Ethnic minorities have been rounded up and detained. There has
been torture, summary execution, lack of access by the International
Red Cross, and the threat of genocide. Again.

The United States condemns any government's collusion with genocidal
militia groups, such as the ex-FAR/Interhamwe. We are also concerned
with abuses in territory controlled by Congolese rebels. And the
situation in both Rwanda and Burundi remains of great concern, as
insurgent attacks on civilians continue. Abuses by the armed forces in
both countries have been committed as part of counterinsurgency
operations but in recent months both armies appear to be doing better.
The region needs to be monitored.

In Sudan, some of the most egregious violations of human rights in the
world today continue, seemingly unnoticed and often unreported.
Fifteen years of brutal civil war have left nearly two million people
dead. Most of those killed are civilians, innocents. Famine and rape
are used as weapons of war. The government has regularly interfered
with delivery of relief to victims of this terrible war. Emergency
flights into Bahr el Ghazal were banned in February and March and
access continues to be denied to the Nuba mountains.

Credible reports continue of slavery and slave trade in Sudan.
According to one, armed men in Sudanese uniforms carried off 400
children from Balir il Ghazal, to a life of slavery, in April of this
year. The government of Sudan must put a stop to slavery and to the
slave trade.

In Sudan there is widespread persecution of Christians and Animists.
Arbitrary arrest, disappearances, and torture is widespread, as are
reports of the abuse of women and children. Women are denied their
basic rights. In December 1997, fifty women were beaten and detained
by security forces in Khartoum when they attempted to deliver a
petition to the United Nations office.

Sudan also supports the Lords Resistance Army, which has carried off
thousands of children from Uganda, murdered some of them, and turned
others into slaves or child soldiers.

While the civil war is often blamed for many of these abuses, there is
no excuse for these acts. The United States calls on the government of
Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement to negotiate
seriously at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Peace

Mr. Chairman, in Iraq, freedom of thought, expression, religion,
association, assembly, and movement simply do not exist. And there is
no protection from arbitrary arrest, torture, imprisonment or summary
execution. Iraq is ruled by a repressive one-party regime, controlled
by Saddam Hussein and his family. The General Assembly has repeatedly
condemned "the massive and extremely grave violations of human rights
and of international humanitarian law by the Government of Iraq." The
Human Rights Commission this year condemned the "all-pervasive
repression and oppression sustained by broad-based discrimination and
widespread terror." And yet waves of summary executions have
continued. The UN's Special Rapporteur has found strong evidence that
hundreds of prisoners (have been) executed" in Iraqi prisons in the
past year.

In Southern Iraq, the Shia minority leadership has been subject to
assassinations attributed to the Iraqi regime, and reports continue of
serious repression of the Marsh Arabs and the outright destruction of
their way of life and the unique ecology of the marshes. In Northern
Iraq, the government continues to forcibly expel tens of thousands of
ethnic Kurds and Turkomen from the cities, and land seizures from the
Kurds are frequent.

Six hundred Kuwaitis and other non-Iraqis, who disappeared at the
hands of the Iraqi authorities during the occupation of Kuwait remain
unaccounted for. In short, Iraq shows no indication that it intends to
comply with Security Council Resolution 688, demanding that Iraq stop
repressing its own people.

In Belarus, an authoritarian regime engages in serious and frequent
human rights violations. There is scant respect of even the most basic
democratic rights. A dictatorial executive controls the judiciary and
effectively suppresses freedom of speech and association, and exacts
arbitrary arrests, detentions, fines, beatings, threats and harassment
upon its citizens. The Belarus government has gone so far as to
intimidate and interfere with international human-rights monitors.
Such flagrant violations cannot continue indefinitely.

Nineteen Eighty Eight has seen some of the worst abuses of Human
Rights in Kosovo, including the torture and extra-judicial killing of
ethnic Albanians, the deliberate use of excessive force by the
military against Kosovar civilians, the bombing and destruction of
Kosovar homes and property, and most troubling, the forced mass
displacement of Kosovars.

President Milosevic has brazenly trampled the rights of the citizens
of Yugoslavia, preventing freedom of assembly, media, thought, and
expression. But following decisive action by the international
community including NATO and the Security Council, we are confident
that the abuses of human rights and humanitarian law in Kosovo will
not continue unchecked. The agreements reached following Ambassador
Holbrooke's negotiations with President Milosevic will give the
international community the ability to verify that all parties comply
with Security Council Resolution 1199.

The US also reiterates what it has stated in other forums: Yugoslavia
must cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former
Yugoslavia (ICTY), and allow that tribunal full access to investigate
-- and bring to justice -- those guilty of war crimes and crimes
against humanity in Kosovo.

In contrast to Serbia, Montenegro has shown great compassion in caring
for the nearly 50,000 internationally displaced people pushed out of
Kosovo by the draconian tactics of President Milosevic. Montenegro has
shown its admirable dedication to the development of democracy,
tolerance, and the acceptance of a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society,
and is showing good progress toward a free media.

The US also has serious concerns regarding the human rights situation
in Croatia. The government of Croatia continues to block the
development of a democratic society and judicial reform, and continues
to severely restrict freedom of assembly and association. And Croatia
has yet to allow a free media. To its credit, the government of
Croatia's 1998 Refugee Return Program is commendable, and the United
States eagerly awaits its full implementation.

There are also examples of progress this year. Even in the face of
Bosnia's recent history, there has been progress. With substantial
international pressure and monitoring, an independent media is
developing, and a pluralistic democracy with citizen participation is
rapidly expanding. But Bosnia must do more. The rights of all of its
citizens must be fully safeguarded in a united, multi-ethnic
Bosnia-Herzegovina. The United States is also concerned with the
ongoing impediments to the return of displaced minorities. More work
needs to be done to prevent the harassment and even murder of those
who return. And when prevention fails, swift and effective punishment
must ensue.

Additionally, Bosnia-Herzegovina must fully cooperate with the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, including
the prompt surrender of accused criminals.

China has taken several positive steps toward the development of
greater respect for human rights. The United States welcomes China's
signature of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
and we look forward to its early ratification. But we cannot ignore
that serious problems remain.

Public petitions and open calls for political change are now fairly
common in China. Yet, since this summer, Fang Jue has been held after
issuing a tract published in the US and France which called for
separation of party and government, negotiations with the Dalai Lama,
and freedom of expression and association.

Sharp limits on what is permissible continue to exist and organized
opposition to the Communist Party is not tolerated. Measures that the
authorities have taken to limit political activities have included
harassment, detention, and travel restrictions. Persons who have been
detained for the peaceful expression of their political or religious
views include Liu Nianchun and Xu Yongze. We are concerned that recent
actions indicate the Chinese authorities may be moving to tighten
recently loosened restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

In Nigeria, a country still emerging from the repressive dictatorship
of General Abacha, significant improvements have been made in human
rights in the last four months. Since July, the government of General
Abubakar has announced its plan for transition to civilian rule and
full democracy. The Nigerian government has released political
prisoners, dismissed corrupt generals, invited the return of political
exiles, and established an Independent National Electoral Commission.
This country, which already enjoys a strong independent media, has
actually solicited the help of the UN and others to ensure fairness in
its presidential elections in February of next year. The United States
is happy to commend the Nigerian government for the promising steps it
has taken.

In Algeria, we welcome the work of the Eminent Persons panel as a good
first step towards cooperation in addressing ongoing, and truly
horrific human rights violations, perpetrated in the course of brutal
terrorist insurgency. Openness and cooperation with the international
human rights machinery is an important tool in this effort.

We are also encouraged that in Iran, the Khatami administration sought
to advance the rule of law and international dialogue. But despite
expressions of good intentions, the actual record remains troubling.
Alongside greater freedom of expression, Iran arbitrarily shuts down
publications. And while we welcome the government's announcement that
the issue of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie is closed, we remain
concerned by the disavowals of that decision issued by other prominent
Iranian elements and by increases of the bounty on the writer's life.
Minorities continue to be persecuted in Iran. The world was shocked by
the execution of Ruhollah Rowhani for religious crimes and remains
preoccupied with the confirmation of death sentences on other Iranian

Mr. Chairman, in this 50th anniversary year, when the universality of
human rights is being reconfirmed and celebrated around the world, it
is clear from any accounting that there is much work to be done. This
unfortunate truth is undeniable. But since the creation of the United
Nations, and the articulation of the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights, the world has a vehicle by which to combat abuses of human
rights. The United States pledges to continue to fight, struggle, and
eventually triumph in this great cause, both at home and abroad. It
may often be difficult, but the cause is too great. The world together
must continue to fight for all human rights for all.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

(end text)