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U.S. Department of State

Department Seal Harold Hongju Koh, Assistant Secretary of State
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Statement, U.S. Embassy, Tunis, Tunisia, June 14, 2000

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I want to express my appreciation to Ambassador Raphel and her splendid embassy staff and to the Tunisian Government for its cooperation in organizing a series of meetings that permitted me to discuss the full range issues that relate to my portfolio -- democracy, human rights, and labor. I was glad to meet with senior Tunisian Government officials, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Interior. I look forward to seeing the Minister of State, Abdelaziz Ben Dhia, later this afternoon. I also had discussions with members of the political opposition, with leaders of human rights organizations, and with journalists. I believe I have gained the benefit of the views of knowledgeable people across a spectrum of political and public opinion as to current human rights issues in Tunisia.

In preparation for my trip, I have become familiar with the impressive progress this country has made in economic development, in education, in advancing the status of women, in protecting workers rights, and preventing child labor. Statistics never tell the full story, of course, and it is only by coming here and seeing the evidence of this progress that one senses what a dynamic society Tunisia is today. Tunisians, in the government and among the citizenry, are justifiably proud of what they have accomplished. At the same time, Tunisians with whom I have talked, officials and private citizens alike, acknowledge how much more there is to be done, particularly in the key areas of human rights and democratization.

In the United States, Tunisians have a friend that is interested in helping and encouraging them to make further progress in these areas. Tunisia can count on our support in its efforts to bring greater pluralism to the political system and the electoral process, to promote an independent, professional, and open media, to ensure the ability of all Tunisians to travel, speak openly, and gather together in independent associations, including human rights organizations; and to foster a transparent and independent judicial system. Tunisia has already met some of the most difficult challenges besetting any country -- bringing economic development, social progress, and security to its citizens. This country and its people are now tackling the remaining challenges discussed during my meetings here. I leave Tunisia with hope that we will see continued progress on these fronts.

Thank you.

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