Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement on Key Votes at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights
Washington, DC, April 24, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
As the leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathered in Washington, the nations of the world also came together at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva to reaffirm the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On Friday, the Commission adopted a series of important resolutions that will help address a wide range of human rights concerns around the world.
We would like to thank the overwhelming majority of Commission members who joined us in adopting a resolution on human rights conditions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, including Kosovo. The resolution, sponsored by the United States, highlights the broad array of human rights problems throughout the former Yugoslavia. In particular, it calls on the authorities in Belgrade to end immediately their campaign of violence and repression against the civilian population in Kosovo and accept conditions for a lasting peace. By condemning the Milosevic regime's grave and systematic human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and large-scale destruction of civilian property in Kosovo, the Commission demonstrated that NATO's nineteen democracies do not stand alone in demanding peace, justice and freedom for the people of Kosovo.
I also would like to congratulate our NATO allies, the Czech Republic and Poland, who championed the Commission's passage of a resolution on human rights in Cuba. Their determined efforts demonstrate both their commitment to democracy and their conviction that human rights are inalienable and universal. We hope that the Cuban government will, in response, take immediate steps to respect human rights. Honoring the resolution's call for the release of the Internal Dissident Working Group -- Beatriz Roque, Felix Bonne, Rene Gomez Manzano, and Vladimir Roca -- would be an important first step. Like Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik before them, their only crime was to speak truth to power so that the powerless may be heard. We look forward to the day when they, like their Czech and Polish counterparts, will witness their nation's accession into the community of democracies.
Unfortunately, the Commission also chose not to support the U.S.-sponsored resolution on human rights in China. We would like to thank those countries that joined us in opposing passage of China's no-action motion on the grounds that it would prevent the Commission from addressing an important human rights concern that is well within its jurisdiction. We sponsored this resolution as part of our principled, purposeful policy of engagement with China. Our goal was to focus international attention on the sharp deterioration in the human rights situation in China. We believed -- and continue to believe -- that there is no better place to do that than in the Commission, the preeminent international forum on human rights. We have accomplished that goal, even though the Commission chose not to take action on our resolution.
The Commission on Human Rights also passed a number of other important resolutions, including measures on Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burundi, Iraq, Nigeria, Burma, and Equatorial Guinea. I would like to thank all those member states who joined our delegation in Geneva in working to secure passage of these resolutions. I would also like to express my special appreciation to the Federal Republic of Germany as EU Council President for sponsoring resolutions on Iran and Sudan. We look forward to working with Member States as the Commission turns to other, equally vital issues in its final week, including economic and social rights, women's rights, and racism.
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