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U.S. Department of State

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David J. Scheffer
Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

U.S. Department of State
Address on the 50th Anniversary of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Ramapo College, Mahwah, NJ, September 16, 1998

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Realizing the Vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to open Ramapo College's celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This college prides itself on being a "global village" that prepares its students for an increasingly interdependent world. The fact that your student body is drawn from more than 50 foreign countries demonstrates such an international commitment. The fact that you are launching today a 4 month lecture series on human rights also demonstrates a unique understanding of global realities that surely will benefit this distinguished community of students and faculty. I want to thank, in particular, President Robert Scott and Terence Miller, the Director of International and Intercultural Education, for their gracious invitation to address you today.

No one can survey events of this decade without profound concern about worldwide respect for internationally recognized human rights. We live in a world where entire populations can still be terrorized and slaughtered by nationalistic butchers and undisciplined armies. We have witnessed this in Iraq, in the Balkans, and in central Africa. Internal conflicts dominate the landscape of armed struggle today, and impunity too often shields the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes against their own people and others. As the most powerful nation committed to the rule of law, we have a responsibility to confront these assaults on humankind. One response mechanism is accountability, namely to help bring the perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes to justice. If we allow them to act with impunity, then we will only be inviting a perpetuation of these crimes far into the next millennium. Our legacy must demonstrate an unyielding commitment to the pursuit of justice.

The touchstone of our work today is 2 documents framed 50 years ago at the United Nations. At the conclusion of World War II, the global collective conscience was devastated by reports of hitherto unthinkable atrocities committed during the war. It is from this dark period in history that both the international human rights system and international humanitarian law emerged on the world scene. In the space of 2 days in December of 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted both the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These two instruments, the first one binding on those countries, including the United States, which have ratified it, and the second serving as a non-binding but powerful instrument of influence over state behavior, are the backbone of all that has followed in the fields of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Eleanor Roosevelt was this country's leading advocate for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Her tireless work to achieve this historic affirmation of human dignity resonates to this day in the countless actions of governments, international organizations, non governmental organizations, journalists, and courageous individuals who seek to defend and implement the principles of the Universal Declaration. Mrs. Roosevelt said of the Declaration that, "the observance of human rights can be one of the foundation stones for peace". That remains as true today as when she spoke these words a half century ago.

One of the resonating themes of the Universal Declaration is the rule of law in the protection of human rights. The Declaration declared that "disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind," that "human rights should be protected by the rule of law," that "no one should be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment," that "all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law," that "everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him," that "everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial in which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence," that "everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State," and that "no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."

These principles and others in the Declaration complement international humanitarian law and international criminal law today. Their relevance grows with every passing day.

Until relatively recently, the aspirations of the Genocide Convention went largely unfulfilled by governments. Recall Article 1 of the Convention, which states that, "The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish." The crime of genocide includes acts "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group," such as "killing members of the group," "causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group," and "deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."

Two weeks ago, in Arusha, Tanzania, a three-judge panel of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda handed down the first judgment in history on the crime of genocide. Jean-Paul Akayesu, a former mayor of a town in Rwanda, was found guilty of genocide. Jean Kambanda, a former Rwandan prime minister, pled guilty to genocide and was sentenced to life imprisonment. Other indicted officials of the Rwandan Government are being tried on charges of genocide. A genocide case before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was almost concluded this summer before the death of the defendant Milan Kovacevic.

The Genocide Convention speaks loudly in the indictments by the Yugoslav Tribunal against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. These prominent figures of the Bosnian conflict remain at large, a fact that is certainly frustrating to the victims of their alleged crimes. But their day will come and they will face justice in The Hague. U.S. policy remains constant. Neither should assume anything else. We would have hoped that these indictees had shown the courage to voluntarily defend themselves before the Tribunal rather than cower from the international community. In the meantime, we are confident of the Tribunal's continuing progress. Thirty-three indictees have been apprehended or otherwise brought into custody. Thirty publicly indicted individuals remain at large. Six judicial proceedings covering a large number of indictees currently are underway in The Hague.

So when you think of the U.S. Constitution and the UN Charter as being "living" documents, consider also the vibrancy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Genocide Convention. In the end, words embodied in documents can matter. They can be powerful swords on the side of justice.

International Criminal Court

Both the Universal Declaration and the Genocide Convention helped framed the 3 years of negotiations at the United Nations over the establishment of a permanent international criminal court. These talks culminated 2 months ago in Rome at a diplomatic conference with the adoption of a statute for the court. I led the U.S. delegation to the Rome talks and know well the enormous influence the post-World War II declarations and treaties on human rights and international humanitarian law had on our labors.

We were enthused about the possibilities of the Rome negotiations. Around the world, the United States has taken the lead in efforts to bring to justice those guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. We've promoted and strongly supported the international tribunals to punish widespread abuses in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and we have long supported the creation of an appropriate international criminal court.

So why, on July 17th, did the United States vote against the agreement to establish a permanent court? Because the agreement that was reached in Rome puts at risk the vital efforts of the United States and others to promote international peace and security, while the worst perpetrators of atrocities may go unpunished. Such an outcome hardly promotes the interests of justice.

History teaches us that the best hope for peace and justice is when both are pursued together. The Nuremberg trials would not have been possible had the Allies not defeated the Nazi regime. When U.S. and other NATO forces arrived in Bosnia in early 1996, only one indictee had been taken into custody; today the number is 33. In practice, collective action is often the only way to lay the groundwork for justice to begin.

Thus, the U.S. delegation went to the Rome conference with twin goals: continue the progress toward international justice, while protecting the critical roles of the United States and other responsible members of the international community in maintaining peace and security through humanitarian action, peacekeeping, and, when necessary, collective military action.

We sought a court that would be empowered by the UN Security Council to pursue those responsible for heinous crimes, whoever and wherever they are, but also a court whose ability to act without a Security Council mandate would be shaped in such a way as to protect against a misguided exercise of authority that might harm legitimate national and international interests.

This was a reasonable approach that had been initially proposed by a UN team of international law experts. In Rome, we indicated our willingness to be flexible as to how cases would be referred to the court, but we felt it was essential to recognize a government's right to assess the court's fairness and impartiality before allowing its people to come under the court's jurisdiction in the absence of a referral from the Security Council. This approach guaranteed the ability of responsible governments to undertake life-saving missions without fear that their troops would be dragged before a tribunal that had yet to stand the test of time.

Unfortunately, a small group of countries, meeting behind closed doors in the final days of the Rome conference, produced a seriously flawed take-it-or-leave-it text, one that provides a recipe for politicization of the court and risks deterring responsible international action to promote peace and security. Most problematic is the extraordinary way the court's jurisdiction was framed at the last moment. A country whose forces commit war crimes could join the treaty but escape prosecution of its nationals by "opting out" of the court's jurisdiction over war crimes for 7 years. By contrast, a country that does not join the treaty but deploys its soldiers abroad to restore international peace and security could be vulnerable to assertions that the court has jurisdiction over acts of those soldiers.

Under the Treaty, the court may exercise jurisdiction over a crime if either the country of nationality of the accused or the country where the alleged crime took place is a party to the treaty or consents. Thus, with only the consent of a Saddam Hussein, even if Iraq does not join the treaty, the treaty text purports to provide the court with jurisdiction over American or other troops involved in international humanitarian action in northern Iraq, but the court could not on its own prosecute Saddam for massacring his own people.

These and other problems with the existing treaty will make it tougher to put together effective coalitions to conduct international peacekeeping and enforcement actions. This difficulty will be increased if, as envisioned by the treaty, the court tries to prosecute a crime of "aggression" that the delegates in Rome were not able even to define.

Foreign officials and representatives of non-governmental organizations tried to assure us in Rome that procedural safeguards built into the treaty--many sought successfully by the United States-- meant that there would be no plausible risk to U.S. soldiers. We could not share in such an optimistic view of the infallibility of an untried institution.

The United States remains strongly committed to addressing the challenges of justice, peace and security. We hope that other governments will recognize the benefits of potential American participation in the Rome treaty and correct its flawed provisions. The United States can make the critical difference in the ability and willingness of reluctant governments to cooperate with the court, but not if the court places at risk those who shoulder the responsibility for international peace and security.

In the meantime, the United States will continue to lead efforts to bring to justice those who have committed and, in some cases, are continuing to commit, the most horrifying of crimes. We trust our friends and allies will show as much resolve to pursue the challenges of today as they have shown in creating a future court. We hold the stakes for international peace, security and justice to be too great to accept anything else.

Iraq

For example, we are focusing renewed attention on Saddam Hussein and the senior members of his regime. His record is a long one. As Secretary Albright has often said, he is a repeat offender. It is extremely important that the pattern of Saddam Hussein's conduct be well known by the international community. That pattern of conduct has been criminal in character. It involves the actions of Saddam Hussein's regime during the Anfal campaign of the late 1980's against the Iraqi Kurdish people. It includes what he did to the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war. It includes the invasion and occupation of Kuwait, and the torture and killing of Kuwaiti civilians, and it involves actions that Saddam Hussein's regime has taken against the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq following the Gulf war.

Our government is working with others to pull together the record of Saddam's regime in a way that can be useful to a prosecutor. For example, some years ago, Human Rights Watch and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee helped collect 5.5 million pages of Iraqi documents captured in northern Iraq. The U.S. Government has now scanned and indexed these 5.5 million pages into computer-readable form on 176 CD- ROM disks. Our goal now is to make this information accessible to investigators and prosecutors looking into Saddam's activities.

One incident stands out in the horror story of the abuses Saddam Hussein visited upon the Iraqi people. A little more than 10 years ago, Saddam's forces dropped poison gas on the Iraqi town of Halabja. Halabja's story was told on "60 Minutes" through the work of a courageous British doctor, Dr. Christine Gosden of the University of Liverpool. Dr. Gosden examined hundreds of Iraqis, many of whom were children or were not even born at the time of the 1988 attack. Her observations of birth defects, cancers, neurological disease, and more show the effects of Saddam's willingness to violate the prohibition on the use of poison gas that was codified in the 1925 Geneva Protocol. The Washington Post turned its entire Op-Ed page of March 11, 1998, over to Dr. Gosden so that she could tell the world the consequences of the actions of Saddam's forces on the Iraqi people. As horrible as it was, Halabja was not the only Iraqi or Iranian town attacked by poison gas dropped by Iraqi forces. We don't yet know the full extent of the lasting damage suffered by the Iraqi or Iranian people as a result of Saddam Hussein's use of poison gas.

We know even more about Saddam Hussein's actions during the invasion and occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91, including crimes against U.S. and coalition forces. Last May I was in Kuwait and met with officials of the Government of Kuwait and leading experts at universities and non-governmental organizations. I wanted to see the evidence they had accumulated in their archives. I met with groups dedicated to keeping alive the memories of the civilians tortured to death by Saddam's forces. During the occupation, even having a camera in Kuwait could get you the death sentence, but courageous Kuwaitis working in hospitals took pictures to record the suffering these men and women endured, in most cases before being tortured to death. This, I need hardly say it, is a war crime.

I was extremely impressed by what the Kuwaitis have done to gather evidence of the atrocities committed against them. Block by block, they have documented Saddam's campaign against the Kuwaiti people. This record must not be forgotten.

I was also able to visit what must be regarded as a war crime scene-the oil fields of Kuwait. As Saddam Hussein's forces were forced to flee Kuwait in 1991, he ordered his forces to destroy or release into the Gulf what turned out to be between 7 and 9 million barrels of oil. five undred and ninety oil well heads were damaged or destroyed, 508 were set on fire, and 82 were damaged so that oil and gas flowed freely from them. The scene at that time can barely be described--photographs and films shot at that time show a black cloud that literally turned day into night. Kuwait has done a heroic job in restoring itself from this crime. Even so, some 7 years later, the damage remains. Pools of oil remain. At one gathering station, where the oil from the wells was supposed to be processed prior to being shipped to tankers, Saddam's forces started a fire so hot it melted half-inch-thick steel like candy. These were wanton acts of destruction of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. If ever there was a case of a gross violation of military necessity and wanton destruction, this was the case.

Today, Kuwait is free, thanks to the action of U.S. forces, our Coalition partners, and the Kuwaitis themselves. As a result, we have access to the evidence of crimes that have been committed against the Kuwaiti people and their environment. Much of Iraq remains sealed off to international investigators, but there are substantial archives outside of Iraq that document crimes committed against the Iraqi people, as well. I wish those on the Security Council could see the evidence that I have seen. There have been many threats by Saddam Hussein's regime to international peace and security to which the international community has had to respond. The Clinton Administration recognizes that the record of Saddam Hussein's conduct under international law is deplorable. We are taking measures to insure that this record becomes better known to the world at large.

Kosovo

If one is looking for an example where the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of international humanitarian law are under direct assault, Kosovo is a prime example. A few weeks ago I sought to visit Kosovo to bear witness to the conflict there. The government of Serbia and Montenegro refused to issue me a visa. It also has refused visas to forensic experts seeking to investigate reports of mass graves. President Milosevic and Serbian security forces appear, therefore, to be reluctant to encourage international observation of their military actions in Kosovo. Ironically, the refusal to grant me a visa has inhibited my ability to examine alleged criminal conduct by the Kosovo Liberation Army as well.

Serbian actions in Kosovo increasingly demonstrate that the leaders of Serbia--Montenegro are insecure about their own accountability under international law. Serbia--Montenegro has a long history of refusing to cooperate in a meaningful and constructive way with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, particularly by refusing to turn over indicted suspects who comfortably reside on its territory. This includes the so-called "Vukovar 3" who have been indicted for crimes committed in Vukovar, Croatia in 1991. But beyond that, Serbian actions in Kosovo increasingly demonstrate that the leaders of Serbia--Montenegro appear determined to continue to ignore the requirements of international humanitarian law. Thus, the isolation of Serbia--Montenegro, including the retention of the outer wall of sanctions, will continue.

The United States deplores actions by Serb authorities in Kosovo that have resulted in widespread burnings of settlements, the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Serb citizens, and the deaths of many innocent civilians and humanitarian aid workers. We know that enough of these actions have occurred to give rise to serious concerns under international criminal law. When Assistant Secretary Shattuck was in Kosovo recently, he saw, "horrendous human rights violations, violations of humanitarian law, and acts of punitive destruction on a massive scale." What is disturbing is that we do not yet know the full extent of this activity, particularly killings of innocent civilians.

Nonetheless, there is no question that the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 827 (1993), which covers the former Yugoslavia. There also is no question that an armed conflict exists in Kosovo.

The United States firmly supports the conclusions reached by the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the Yugoslav Tribunal on both of these issues. The OTP affirmed the Yugoslav Tribunal's jurisdiction on March 10, 1998, and on June 12th and again in July confirmed its opinion to the Contact Group that events in Kosovo constituted an internal armed conflict, which is the factual pre-requisite for bringing indictments for crimes against humanity or violations of the of the laws and customs of war.

That means, quite simply, that the laws of war must be adhered to. Serb and KLA, or rebel, combatants are required to observe international law and international humanitarian law. The Yugoslav Tribunal has the authority to prosecute those responsible for ordering atrocities and officials who fail to punish those responsible.

We also agree with the Prosecutor of the Yugoslav Tribunal, as she wrote to the Contact Group in July, that any attempt by Serbia- Montenegro to deny the Tribunal's jurisdiction on the grounds that Kosovo is a "police action" is simply wrong both in law and in fact.

The United States is cooperating fully with the Yugoslav Tribunal as it investigates the conflict in Kosovo. We are ensuring that relevant information is provided to the Tribunal in a timely manner so that its investigations can proceed efficiently. We are urging other governments to cooperate with and provide information to the Tribunal regarding the conflict in Kosovo.

Most of our concern in Kosovo resides with the performance of the Serb security forces, especially the police (MUP). Serb operations in the last few weeks show far more extensive destruction of civilian property than was seen earlier in the campaign. A scorched earth policy appears to be unfolding in some areas. The fact that much of the damage has occurred in areas where there was no appreciable combat and frequently well after Serb forces move through suggests a punitive rather than military motivation for much of the destruction.

In the area covered by the Serb offensives since July 26th, over one-third of the villages are damaged and an average of one-fourth of their structures--not all of which are houses--have significant damage. At least an estimated 4,000 houses have been severely damaged or destroyed.

In other words, hostilities in central and western Kosovo have resulted in at least 59 towns that have sustained 50% or more damage, and at least 105 towns that have received less than 50% damage.

Crop burning also has been frequently employed by Serb forces. Livestock also are being deliberately killed.

In short, the number of structures damaged has increased precipitously since mid-August, when Serb security forces shifted operations back to western Kosovo. Though initial operations in late July to early August were more rigorous-or punitive-against towns that served as redoubts for KLA forces, the levels of destruction since then have broadened significantly.

Serb forces have returned to areas of previous security operations to reengage or mop up KLA insurgents, subjecting numerous towns to cyclical damage. But the majority of the destruction has been caused by the deliberate torching of structures -- either a punitive measure or to conceal looting -- after civilians have fled and the area has been secured by Serb forces. Most of the burning appears attributable to interior ministry forces (MUP), who occupy areas at the conclusion of Serbian army (VJ) operations.

Furthermore, Serb security forces continue to delay relief convoys to populations in need until they have deemed an area "secure," have conducted protracted shelling of targets in close proximity to large groups of internally displaced persons, and have displayed extremely heavy-handed behavior when dealing with such persons.

The forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Kosovo-- Albanians cannot be justified under any military doctrine.

We are concerned about the possibility that mosques have been destroyed in a manner reminiscent of what occurred to religious buildings during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.

The United States believes that these attacks on both the civilian population of Kosovo as well as civilian structures that serve no military objective points towards the kind of activity prohibited under well-established customary international law. The United States worked hard to successfully include criminal penalties for these kinds of attacks in the statute of the international criminal court that was recently negotiated in Rome.

Article 3 of the Yugoslav Tribunal statute vests the Tribunal with the power to prosecute persons violating such laws or customs of war as the "wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity," as well as the "attack, or bombardment, by whatever means, of undefended towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings," the "destruction or wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion," and the "plunder of public or private property." Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions codifies the criminality of acts committed against persons taking no active part in non-international armed conflicts, including violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture, committing outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humilitating and degrading treatment, and the taking of hostages. Other prohibitions of customary international law for non-- international armed conflict include intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, intentionally directing attacks against buildings, material, medical units and transport and personnel using the distinctive emblems of the Geneva Conventions in conformity with international law, and intentionally directing attacks against buildings dedicated to religion.

The United States has information, which we are sharing with the Tribunal, that shows the relevance of these principles of codified and customary international law with respect to the actions of Serbian security forces in Kosovo.

The Rome treaty sets forth principles of established customary international law. Despite the fact that the United States could not, in the end, sign the treaty text for other reasons, its definitions of crimes remain a useful guide for armed forces, whatever side or cause they are fighting for. We negotiated in Rome the inclusion of a specific war crime, grounded in customary international law, that confirms the criminality of an intentional direct attack against personnel, installations, material, units or vehicles involved in a humanitarian assistance mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. We believe that this kind of incident probably occurred a few weeks ago when Serbian security forces launched a cowardly mortar attack that killed three ethnic Albanian employees of the Mother Teresa NGO. This appeared to be a direct attack on a clearly marked humanitarian vehicle in open terrain during the middle of the day.

There has been much media attention and speculation about whether or not ethnic cleansing is occurring in Kosovo. Let me make clear a very simple point: For purposes of international criminal law, it does not matter. "Ethnic cleansing" is largely a political term. It is commonly used to describe the forced removal of an ethnic population from a region and replacing it with a different ethnic population. That is what occurred in Bosnia and what the Dayton Agreements are intended to reverse with the return of refugees and displaced persons to their home towns. In Kosovo, this kind of ethnic cleansing would not appear to yet be occurring. However, the actions taken by Serbian security forces to assault settlements and displace their populations need not be ethnic cleansing per se to be criminal in character. Although Serb civilians are not flooding into the abandoned settlements, we do not know whether such population transfers might be contemplated for the future. If they are, then ethnic cleansing indeed may be occurring. We may just happen to be in the interregnum right now between the forced removal of one ethnic group and its replacement with another ethnic group.

We are also concerned by actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), especially disturbing reports of kidnapping of noncombatants and mass graves.

We strongly support the Yugoslav Tribunal's intentions to fully investigate the actions in Kosovo. We trust that in the coming weeks Tribunal investigators, including forensic experts, will be given full access to Kosovo and that the Tribunal will sustain a regular presence in Kosovo until the necessary investigations are completed. The Yugoslav Tribunal's presence on the ground in Kosovo can help deter further criminal actions as well as permit thorough examination of alleged mass grave sites and other targets of investigation. Transparency also requires access by non-governmental organizations which can assist in this process under the guidance of the the Yugoslav Tribunal.

Afghanistan

A final area of the world to which I would direct your attention today is Afghanistan. In August, the Taliban attacked the city of Mazar-e-Sharif and, according to reports we have seen, many civilians-- we do not know how many--were killed. Officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have heard eyewitness accounts of unlawful killings from survivors who arrived in Pakistan. While we have no independent confirmation of killings of thousands of civilians, as has been reported in the media, we certainly do not rule it out at this stage. Yesterday, the UN Security Council, on which the United States sits, expressed "its deep concern at the escalating military operations in the Bamyan Province and at reports of mass killings of civilians in northern Afghanistan." The Council demanded "that the Taliban fully respect international humanitarian law and human rights." It is essential that independent observers be permitted to determine the facts on the ground. The work of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, non-governmental organizations, and journalists working under extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances to gather the facts has been commendable.

Among the dead in Mazar-e-Sharif in early August were nine Iranian diplomats. The Taliban initially denied the diplomats had been killed, then a month later they admitted it. The United States last week publicly condemned the killing of the Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e- Sharif. The inviolability of diplomats is one of the oldest rules of civilization. We have joined with other members of the United Nations Security Council in calling for an urgent investigation into these crimes so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice. This includes both those responsible for unlawful killings of diplomats as well as those responsible for war crimes against other civilians in Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamyan. On Tuesday, the Security Council issued a statement strongly condemning the killings of the Iranian diplomats and stating its belief "that this criminal act should be fully investigated with the participation of the United Nations with a view to prosecuting those responsible."

We note that press reports say the Taliban soldiers who killed the Iranian diplomats were not acting under orders and that they will be punished. The United States and all civilized nations will be watching this case to see if justice is done.

Tens of thousands of Iranian military forces and hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment are near Iran's border with Afghanistan today, and we are monitoring it very closely. The best solution to the crisis in Afghanistan is a solution that avoids military conflict and sees justice done for both Afghan and Iranian victims.

We have also seen press reports that Taliban spiritual leader Mohammad Omar has told his fighters to treat any prisoners taken in Bamyan according to the principles of Islam. The Taliban also have an obligation to respect international humanitarian law, as well. As Secretary Albright has said, if the Taliban expect to be accepted in the international community, they must respect international law.

Conclusion

Next week world leaders, including President Clinton and Secretary Albright, will gather in New York for the beginning of the UN General Assembly's 53rd session. They are confronted with a world that remains violent and dangerous, particularly for millions of innocent civilians trapped in vicious cycles of war, senseless slaughter, and greedy retribution. In this year of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us hope that all world leaders will heed the Declaration's wise principles of human conduct and finally recognize the benefits of peace and the imperatives of international justice.

[end of document]

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