|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Under Secretary for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, and
Assistant Secretary for Democratic, Human Rights, and Labor John Shattuck
Press Briefing: 1996 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
Washington, D.C., January 30, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. We're rolling out our human rights reports today. Limited copies are available in the Press Office. There are also copies in the bullpen. You can find it at the National Press Club, at the Foreign Press Center. I would invite you to surf the Net at "www.state.gov"at the State Department Web Site. The entire human rights report should be on the Web Site at this moment.
Secretary of State Albright has some remarks to make concerning human rights in these reports. After she makes those remarks, she'll not be taking questions from you. Under Secretary of State Tim Wirth will have a statement to make. He'll be followed by our Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, John Shattuck. Assistant Secretary Shattuck will respond to your questions.
After that, we'll take a 15/20 minutes recess and we'll have our regular briefing.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Nick. Good afternoon. I'm pleased today to release officially the State Department's Annual Country Report on Human Rights. These reports reflect the American people's commitment to high standards of respect for human dignity and freedom for all people.
That commitment matters a great deal to me for I am a beneficiary of it. It is a testament to the reputation for candor of these reports that even those, and sometimes it seems especially those, who claim to resent them read them. That is a tribute to Under Secretary Wirth, Assistant Secretary Shattuck, their team, and U.S. Embassy personnel around the world.
As we have often said in this Department, leadership does not come on the cheap. Neither do these reports. They are the product of tens of thousands of hours of observation, data collection, analysis, and drafting. They constitute one reason among many that we will be working hard to obtain full funding for the President's FY-98 budget request for international affairs.
Earlier this month, before the Senate Committee for Foreign Relations, I discussed a new framework for American leadership. Our support for human rights, which include women's rights are an important part of that framework. When human rights standards are observed, sustainable economic progress is more likely; violent conflicts are easier to prevent; terrorists and criminals find it harder to operate, and societies are more fully able to benefit from the skills and energy of their citizens.
In such an environment, Americans are safer, and we are more likely to find good partners with whom to pursue shared economic, diplomatic, and security goals. That is why human rights are and will remain a key element in our foreign policy, both in our bilateral relationships and in our leadership within international organizations.
I will not attempt this afternoon to summarize what these country reports so thoroughly discuss. I do, however, have a few general points to make. First, the United States does not share the view of some that economic progress is incompatible with respect for human rights. Under that theory, freedom leads to instability which leads to economic disorganization. We see that as an excuse, not a reason, for repressing political opposition.
Open economic and political systems contribute to national well-being in a host of ways. Women and men who are free to think for themselves and who have fair access to the levers of economic and political power will be more productive and have a more stabilizing impact than those whose creativity is shut down.
Second, to advance human rights, we must always heed the connection between rights and law. In some societies, such as Burma, Cuba, and Iraq, laws are used to repress internationally recognized human rights to terrorize and silence. This perverts the very purpose of law which is to safeguard rights, not deny them.
A far higher use of law is reflected in the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda and the Balkans. The task of apprehending and prosecuting those guilty of atrocities in these regions is a landmark effort and not an easy one. Success matters to the societies immediately affected because justice is a parent to reconciliation. It matters to all of us because success or failure may well affect the likelihood that future genocides will occur. Those are high stakes.
Accordingly, the United States will continue to provide full backing to the Tribunal's efforts.
Third, I wanted to express particularly, concern today about religious persecution and intolerance. These are plagues that from ancient times have fomented war and deep-seated resentment. In too many countries, from Sudan to Vietnam to Iran, this form of repression persists. In a few, including China, it has increased.
Whatever your culture, whatever your creed, the right to worship is basic. Broadening the recognition of that right and placing the spotlight on its denial will be a priority of our human rights policy. In this connection, I wish to announce today that I plan to meet with the Secretary's Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom at its initial meeting which we hope will occur before the end of next month.
We live at a time when democratic principles and respect for human rights have greater reach than at any previous time in history. This is due not simply to what governments have done but to what people around the world have done either within their own countries or through non-governmental organizations to elevate, monitor, and enforce human rights standards.
Continued progress in these directions will help forge a stronger international system in which the blessings of freedom, law, and prosperity are more broadly shared. Toward that end, America and the American people will continue to play a leading role.
Now, I have the pleasure of turning over the platform to Tim Wirth who is well-known to all of you as the Under Secretary of State Global Affairs. Thank you very much.
UNDER SECRETARY WIRTH: Thank you very much, Nicholas, Madam Secretary. We are obviously thrilled with the Secretary's continuing commitment on these issues, and her own remarkable history which puts real flesh and bones on this very major part of our foreign policy.
What I wanted to do today was first to begin by joining the Secretary in thanking and congratulating the literally hundreds of dedicated Foreign Service and Civil Service professionals who have contributed to this year's report. Many of them are in the room today.
This report represents, as you know, one of the largest sustained collective undertakings by the Department, its embassies and constituent posts. It requires a huge amount of time, often under conditions that are less than hospitable and often with audiences both outside the Department and sometimes within the Department who aren't particularly friendly to these very, very important efforts.
Those who produce this report can be proud as should the American people be. This document is not only among the most important international reports of the year, it is a symbol of all that America represents and it's certainly the premier document on the issue of human rights found anyplace around the globe.
I also today would like to highlight three of the major themes that can be derived in this year's report. They are worth, it seems to me, extra notice. First, the persecution of refugees and asylum seekers; second, the rights of children; and, third, the rights of women.
Under the leadership of President Clinton, and now Secretary Albright, these themes represent key priorities for the United States in its human rights efforts around the world. They receive extensive and appropriate attention in the report.
As in the past, the report includes specific information on the treatment of refugees by countries that receive them. One new aspect this year is documentation of the way countries treat those seeking safehaven or first asylum who often arrive as a result of mass movements and are in a gray area in terms of international legal status. The last several years have witnessed significant population flows across international borders -- in eastern Zaire, Tanzania, Bosnia, for example -- setting up unhappy situations that tax the ability of the local authorities and the international community to respond.
This year's report gives some definition to how nations treat these particularly vulnerable populations and provides instinct in insight into how we might make progress in the future.
This year's report also includes significant information about the human rights of children who are powerless to prevent exploitation and abuse, whether it involves 10-year-olds being sent to a battlefield in Liberia or 8-year-olds being sent to work in sweat shops in India, the violation of children's rights is abhorrent and will be a priority for all who care about their development and about human dignity.
The report this year brings to light evidence of violation of these rights as well as evidence that progress is being made -- in Bangladesh, for example -- as part of the United States and this Administration's high level of commitment to children.
Finally, this year's report builds on last year's effort which systematically examined the human rights of women around the globe. I need not remind all of you of Hillary Clinton's startling and terrific statement at the Women's Conference in Beijing in 1995 in which she laid out women's rights or human rights - human rights or women's rights - that really focused that whole community of interest around the world.
This year's review provides a deeper analysis of human rights issues facing women, including an emphasis on violence against women, one of the themes that came out of the Beijing Conference. This phenomena is all too prevalent, not only in the developing world but in the most industrialized nations as well.
Our focus here is clear. A woman cannot reach her potential and participate in the political life of her country if her basic rights are violated. With us today as well is Theresa Loar, the Department's Senior Coordinator for International Women's issues, who's been leading our effort to follow up on the Women's Conference in Beijing after very successfully coordinating on many of our efforts at the Cairo Conference on Population and Development. Teresa is in the door in the bright purple/blue suit and will be happy also to engage in discussions with any of you about this very important priority.
Let me now turn to our hero of the day, John Shattuck, who's led the team and done a superb job in ensuring that these efforts and our reports and overall human rights efforts are among the Department's highest priorities. I might say that we are absolutely delighted that John has taken on this job for the last four years and done it so extraordinarily well, and I look forward to working with him in the future. He has expanded the capacity of the Bureau to deal not only with these new priorities, but reach in very closely to other priorities in the global family and elsewhere and has been an invaluable member of our team - John Shattuck.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Thank you very much. Let me make a few opening remarks and then open myself, as always, to your questions.
Let me start by saying that the very basis of these reports is that we believe -- the United States believes -- and has long believed that truth and candor are the ultimate instruments of progress in the field of human rights. What these reports are about, of course, is gathering a great deal of information from many sources and providing that information as an instrument of truth and candor and ultimate progress in the field of human rights.
These reports are also about keeping faith with the global movement for democracy and human rights, which has had such a profound effect in our world in recent years and where there are many people who are asserting in their own countries their rights and their opportunities to participate in their governments, and keeping faith with them is in large measure what this is about.
The reports document progress and they document setbacks, and I'm going to review in a moment both areas. They are also increasingly -- under the leadership of first Secretary Christopher and now Secretary Albright and under the overall leadership of President Clinton -- they are the basis for U.S. Government policy decisions, increasingly in areas involving many countries in the world. They are integrated into the mainstream of our foreign policy.
On the assessment side, let me just review with you a number of the areas where there have been negative human rights developments in the past year and a number of the areas where there have been positive developments.
On the negative side, in China we see the repression of political opponents and the religious minorities, religious persecution, Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, and by year's end, as the report notes, all public dissent was effectively silenced. At the same time, there were longer term projects involving legal reform that showed some promise for longer term process for human rights progress in the area of criminal law and criminal procedure.
In Burma, the military regime continued to repress the democratically elected opposition, led by Aung San Suu Kyi. There was forced labor, arbitrary arrests, torture of political opponents, and what Secretary Albright, when she was U.N. Ambassador, described as a process of rolling repression -- a very disturbing process.
In Nigeria, the Abacha military regime continues to oppress its opponents, continues to imprison the winner of the last Presidential election. It has a very poor record on fulfilling the transition to democracy, and it has engaged in arbitrary detention, torture and even in many cases the mysterious killings of opponents, which have not been resolved.
In Afghanistan, we saw in the rise of the Taliban, women's rights greatly reduced in the areas controlled by the Taliban, and, as both Secretary Albright and Under Secretary Wirth indicated, a major focus of U.S. efforts in the human rights field is the area of women's rights. Nowhere perhaps is it more dramatically demonstrated in the last year than the crisis in Afghanistan with respect to the treatment of women.
In the Sudan, there was religious persecution. There was serious persecution of Christians in the south and a great deal of turmoil that resulted in major human rights abuses.
In Indonesia, the crackdown on political opponents and labor leaders and NGOs occurred, and there were continued serious abuses in East Timor where Indonesian troop levels are excessive, and the people are not allowed enough say in their own affairs.
In Rwanda and Burundi, toward the end of the year there was progress in the return of refugees -- in Rwanda, that is -- but continued serious crisis for human rights in terms of the killings that have gone on in Burundi and the great difficulties of bringing to justice in Rwanda those who were engaged in the genocide and the tremendous overcrowding of prisons.
I might note on the bright side, the arrest of four of the principal figures in the genocide last week, and their transport by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal to Arusha where they will stand trial.
In Iran and Iraq, there was a total suppression of democracy, torture and religious persecution.
In Albania, flawed elections.
In Cuba, continued severe repression.
In Belarus, a drift toward presidential dictatorship and a diminishment of parliament.
And in Algeria, I'd like to mention also, the government conflict with the Islamic opposition has resulted in the greatest number of journalists killed in any conflict and a very disturbing situation involving the killing of journalists.
On the positive side, looking quickly through a review of the reports, in Bosnia we see, of course, that the fighting is over. Elections have been held in September, and there is a beginning to put in place the building blocks of civil institutions. This is progress, but by no means is the human rights situation in Bosnia perfect or even remotely resembling that. There is a great deal of work to be done, but there is great progress.
In Serbia, I think the Serbian people are expressing their desire for democratic institutions and an open political system as the symbol of the movement for democracy and human rights that I described before in 1996 -- the brave people in Belgrade and throughout Serbia who are seeking to exercise their own rights -- democratic and human rights.
In Russia, a presidential election was held and the war in Chechnya ended. Continuing human rights problems in many areas, but these are positive developments.
In Haiti, a continuing democratic progress since the end of the military regime. Territorial and administrative elections have been scheduled. Economic modernization and civil service legislation enacted, and some slow progress in the area of justice reform.
In Guatemala, the peace process concluded with the signing of an agreement between the government and the opponents on December 29th, and that resulted in a peace process being implemented, and the Security Council authorizing an observer mission.
In Nicaragua, the first ever transfer of power from one democratically-elected president to another.
In El Salvador, the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the 1992 peace accord.
In Ghana, a successful free and fair presidential election occurred.
In Liberia, finally beginning to proceed with the disarmament of warring factions in one of the most horrendous human rights situation in the world, but progress noted toward the end of the year.
In Mali, a continuing path of democratic constitutional government.
Sierra Leone held its first free and fair presidential elections and signed a cease-fire between the government and those opposing the government.
In Bulgaria, there was a presidential election and transfer of power.
In Romania, a successful democratic transfer of power and parliamentary elections.
And an important step in reconciliation noted between Hungary and Slovakia, and Hungary and Romania, which signed friendship treaties and agreement on the treatment of minorities.
Finally, and perhaps in many ways most dramatically, the continued progress in South Africa where the Truth Commission promotes national healing and where there is a process of bringing forth the truth, which, as I said at the very beginning of my remarks, is the ultimate instrument of human rights progress. Be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can we talk about China for a moment? What is the prospect of any increased openness if American pressure, American criticism has not worked, if the situation has gotten worse, not better in the past year despite our "constructive engagement?"
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: China remains a major focus of attention in all of our human rights work and, of course, I would say there are really three basic elements of the work that we have done on human rights in China. First is a continued and constant engagement with the Government of China at the very highest levels and at many other levels, including Secretary Christopher, the President -- and the process of raising particular cases, addressing issues of religious persecution and seeking to get progress in the area of ratification of human rights treaties and access to prisons.
I think the human rights report that we have issued today on China is itself an important statement of policy insofar as it states the truth as we understand it about the human rights situation.
I would like to say that we also look forward to working, over the long term, with people within China, including the Chinese Government on long-term projects of legal reform, as I mentioned at the outset. Legal reform is a development that is on the positive side. The process of reforming the criminal laws in China is very important.
We also work through appropriate multilateral channels and foras on the human rights situation in China. Nothing in the human rights field, in my experience, is ever going to change overnight. But keeping faith with the process -- the slow, steady process of developing standards of human rights -- is what our policy on human rights in China is all about. We also believe that the broader engagement that the United States has with China, the multifaceted relationship that we have with China, is itself a very important instrument of that progress.
QUESTION: There's no indication that our interest in the Chinese markets and in their increasing economic growth is having any impact on opening up their attitude towards human rights. In fact, it's the reverse.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Well, remember what I have said in terms of the interest -- that the long-term interest that the United States -- and we believe that China has -- in pursuing a greater openness and keeping faith with those who are pursuing that inside China is what our ultimate goal is here, and I think that goal is being very steadfastly pursued. There are certainly many elements of our relationship with China, but never has a human rights situation in China improved by the isolation of China -- quite to the contrary. Only by engaging and working with China and seeking very firmly and clearly, as Secretary Albright has said, to call the situation the way it is, as we have done in our report, do we believe over the long term that progress can be made.
QUESTION: Mr. Shattuck, Human Rights Watch Asia says that they have no problem with, for example, Secretary Albright going and talking about human rights, among other issues, with China, with an engagement with China at a high level. But they think that Vice President Gore's plans to possibly go to Beijing in spring and the talk of a Presidential summit is a bad idea, amounts to a reward of a regime whose human rights record is getting worse, not better. How would you respond to that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: We believe that engagement is the most effective means of working over the long term on not only human rights but many other issues in China. We've also made very clear, as Secretary Christopher did in his most recent trip to China, that the full flowering of the U.S.-China relations will depend on progress in the area of human rights, as well as other areas of progress; and that is a very important statement, I think. It is not possible to imagine a fully developed and positive relationship unless there is progress, both long-term and shorter-term, and that has been a very major tenet of our -- not only our discussions with China but also our very public statements about this subject.
QUESTION: What makes you think that the Chinese in fact do want to fully develop the relationship? Your policy assumes that that is the goal that is sought on both sides. Do they in fact?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: China has an enormous amount to gain by a relationship with the United States. I'm not going to make broad comments about U.S.-China policy here, but certainly the interests of China in a relationship with the United States in a broad variety of fields is very great.
QUESTION: John, you've talked about incorporating the human rights concern into the formulation of bilateral relationships. Would you explain how that has manifested itself in the case of Saudi Arabia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Saudi Arabia -- we have been very concerned and have raised both privately and publicly the issue of freedom of religion, and particularly the question of the free exercise of religion by United States personnel when they are in Saudi Arabia. I think the Human Rights Reports indicate the difficulties and, in fact, almost impossibilities of exercise of freedom of religion.
I think our engagement on this subject is very important in terms of presenting a climate in which individuals from overseas are able to practice their faiths, but we are going to press to make sure that that is possible in the future as well.
QUESTION: John, you had some rather harsh words for Indonesia, harsher than I can remember for the past four or five years. Is this Administration signaling a tougher approach towards Indonesia on the issue of human rights, and is that what your trip -- upcoming trip there is all about?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think the issue of Indonesia and the recent crackdown on political opposition and labor leaders is a matter of great concern. It is a subject that has been raised by Secretary Christopher. I know it's also been raised earlier by the President in previous visits, and I think the United States in its policy toward Indonesia is to work with the government while at the same time sending very clear signals through the truth of our reports that where there are setbacks on human rights, we will be very clear about them. When I go, I certainly expect to have those kinds of discussions.
I think the policy of the United States is also to support non-governmental organizations, as appropriate, in Indonesia. We think there is a climate in which NGOs can make a real difference is there is a relaxation of the ways in which NGOs are treated, and that certainly will be a topic on the agenda when I am there as well.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I haven't set a date yet.
QUESTION: As has been mentioned by the previous speakers, these reports have required an enormous amount of effort. Is there any way you can evaluate whether they have practical benefit? Do they have an impact on the human rights situations in these countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think the countries that where I read -- I mean, you may have seen the list of progress in '96 in some areas where there was not perhaps as much attention by the press I think is an interesting indication. I am not saying that these reports were directly responsible for that, but I do think that the candor of the reports and the ways in which they are incorporated into all aspects of our bilateral relations and the ways in which they send a signal to people in countries who are seeking to advance their own rights I think all have a very positive impact. That is why we continue to expand the reports, take them more seriously. Secretary Christopher and now Secretary Albright have indicated to all our posts around the world that these are very major elements of our foreign policy.
QUESTION: Mr. Shattuck, your report notes that Cuba became more repressive during 1996, but 1996 was a year when the United States took a much more aggressive stance toward rights in Cuba and toward Cuba in general. Could there be a sort of law of unintended consequences working here that the attention by the United States creates a defensive paranoia, as it were, that makes things actually worse in terms of human rights?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Let me remind you of the precipitating event in 1996 in terms of the negative side of human rights in Cuba, and that was when Cuba in an act of naked aggression shot down two U.S. planes -- civilian-piloted planes -- and soon thereafter began the process of cracking down on the NGOs in Cuba who were engaged in promoting human rights.
I think it is very clear that decisions have been made at the highest levels of the Cuban Government to be more repressive, and I think that is a very unfortunate development. I do not attribute it, quite to the contrary, to anything that the United States has done.
QUESTION: Well, do you think U.S. policy toward Cuba may affect the judgmental decisions made by the leadership in Cuba; that they may as a result of U.S. attention become tougher?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think it's -- you should know that one of the elements of our policy , I know you do, is to work very closely with other countries who are engaging with Cuba to promote progress on human rights, and that is in fact one of the key aspects of our policy in the coming months -- the report that was issued yesterday by the White House on what expectations Cuban citizens can have with respect to support in the event that there is progress.
QUESTION: To go back to China, there is a U.S. delegation in Beijing that is trying to negotiate human rights concessions from China. What do you think realistically some of these concessions could be between now and the time that the United States decides whether it will or will not put the U.N. Resolution against China. What do you think realistically they will concede?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Let me answer that by saying that we've told the Chinese many times that unless there is progress on human rights issues of international concern, we are prepared to co-sponsor a resolution on China at the Human Rights Commission. They understand our position. This delegation, as many other discussions have taken place, is there to continue to raise these issues, but it is really up to China at this point to determine whether or not it wants to show progress in the field of human rights.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) What do you think -
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I outlined the general areas. Certainly the release of prisoners is -- on medical parole, and we've made it very clear over the course of many months that there are some very famous and particularly repressed prisoners who are being sought in that regard. We also have sought access to, on behalf of international humanitarian organizations, to Chinese prisoners. The ratification of international covenants; issues of freedom of religion in China, throughout China, including the areas of Tibet. These are all issues that have been raised very clearly with the Chinese.
QUESTION: Going back to your categories of negative and positive, where would you put countries like Lebanon and Syria? Do you think they made any progress the last year? And my second question is, do you think the peace process made any -- brought any effect, positive effect, on human rights in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think in the case of Lebanon, there has been, as our report indicates, some progress over recent years. There's no question about that. In the case of Syria, we do not detect any progress on human rights, and that's been made very clear on our report and in the overview.
The peace process is the ultimate instrument to advance human rights in the Middle East, and I think the fact that it has through all of these very dangerous situations remained on track is the best hope for long-term progress. Our report also notes that there is some progress, certainly in the case of the Israeli authorities.
In the case of the new reports that we're doing on the Palestinian Authorities, I think the fact that we are now focusing very clearly on their responsibilities and in engaging in regular dialogue with the Palestinian Authorities on these issues of human rights also gives an underpinning to the peace process.
QUESTION: You talked about Vice President's Gore trip. But today, I believe the Chinese Government announced Secretary Albright's trip to Beijing. Why is Secretary Albright going at a time when your castigating China for human rights abuses? Wouldn't it be seen as a reward?
Secondly, what kind of message is Secretary Albright going to carry on human rights, if any? And, thirdly, are you going on the trip?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I'm not going to comment on any of those issues. I think Nick Burns is going to have some comments to make for you at a later point.
QUESTION: Are you going on the trip, John?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I am not even confirming whether there's been a decision to have such a trip. It's really something that you'll hear from Nick Burns about.
QUESTION: If there were a trip, would you go?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I'm going to leave it all to Nick. Andrea, you're too clever.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright mentioned that the United States will provide full backing for the Tribunals. But, as we know, right now The Hague Tribunal has only seven of the 75-or-so indictees before it. It's asked and begged NATO to do something about it. NATO doesn't want to; the Joint Chiefs don't want to.
Secondly, they're losing a lot of their staff. There's some kind of bureaucratic glitch. A lot of the Americans have to come home fairly soon. Thirdly, the whole Tribunal's future is in question because the judges have to be renewed later this year. They don't have cases. So what does "full backing" translate into?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: As we continue working on the implementation of the Dayton Agreement which is one of the highest foreign policy priorities of our government and other governments -- and, I might add incidentally, one of the highest priorities of our human rights policy -- there are several issues which require much more focus and action by the parties. The issue of war criminals is clearly not only on that list but probably at the top of that list.
As Secretary Albright said this Sunday on "Meet the Press," a fundamental element of the agreement is the obligation of the parties to turn over indicted war criminals to The Hague. We have a broad strategy designed to cover this issue. We've been consulting with our allies for sometime on ways to press the countries involved in turning over war criminals who have been indicted to the Tribunal. We are also considering ways to assist and enhance the ability of the International Tribunal to deal with this issue.
In addition, we continue to examine all options available. But I want to stress that no further decisions at this point have been made. Of course, the ultimate decision-maker on these issues is the heads of state of the various countries.
MR. BURNS: Henry.
QUESTION: During the China discourse that you gave us, you talked about engagement with China as being useful despite the obvious questions from the floor about whether or not the rights record was improving. You also mentioned in talks with the Palestinians as being valuable as well. And yet, there are many nations in this report here where American foreign policy really forswears any contact with those countries. Cuba would be an obvious choice; Libya and Iran would be others.
As someone in this building who is responsible for human rights, how do you equate engagement on one hand and then look at nations where foreign policy clearly works against engagement?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: Every country is different in this world. Every country needs to be treated in our foreign policy with a particular approach. There are many different interests that the United States has in many countries of the world. The decisions about how to best advance the interests that we have, a paramount one of which is human rights, depends very much on the circumstances in each country. Circumstances are very different in some of the countries that you mentioned. Therefore, we craft our policies with an approach that looks to what the appropriate instruments are to use. Engagement is sometimes a very appropriate instrument.
There are also ways in which you can engage while at the same time signaling that, without progress in certain areas, the relationship will not fully flower.
QUESTION: Foreign governments looking at this document shouldn't misunderstand that this is clearly although an international assessment, nonetheless, represents American interests in treating human rights and not necessarily an international approach?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The principle reflection of this document is the truth and the candor of the way in which each of the reports is treated. The ways in which our policy is shaped in each country is necessarily going to differ. That's not reflected in the reports.
In every country, I would assert to you, there is a strong human rights element to our policy and it's being pursued in different ways.
QUESTION: The Secretary mentioned the importance of the freedom of religions. The German Government, obviously, has no intention to change the policy toward this church of Scientology. Germany is one of the closest allies of the U.S. Do you think this could put some kind of strain on this relationship?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: I think this is a -- you have to put this in some context. This is an element of our human rights report this year on Germany. It was an element last year of our human rights report. The issue of discrimination against individuals and groups that claim that they are engaged and are engaged, by self-definition, in religious activity is, in fact, a universal issue for us in all of the reports. We have expressed our serious concern about discrimination against Scientologists in Germany, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) issue for -- a brief follow-up. It's concerning this issue. You are stating in your report concerning Germany that the German Government fully respects human rights and religious freedom. What is exactly the criticism? Is it that, concerning Scientology, they are not respecting human rights and they are not respecting religious freedom? How do you weigh it? And then you are referring to allegations. Are these allegations by members of the Church of Scientology, or are these facts?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: It is documented, I think, in the report that there are particular parts of the German Government in which, and state governments -- I believe Bavaria, in one case -- where state employees have been systematically screened to determine whether or not they are members of the Church of Scientology. They've also had difficulties in retaining their employment if they are. That is the form of discrimination that this report documents.
QUESTION: Can you talk about -- going back to your last comments -- about how human rights policy is applied? It seems what you're implying here is that it's given -- human rights is given different weight depending on which country you're making policy towards. I would refer to the reference in the summary on the situation in the Palestinian territories in Israel which seem to blame the human rights policy on pressures from the peace process, and yet there were quite public reports of the use of torture and other violations of human rights. Is that the point? Is there an excuse being made there, that the peace process was the result of -- that these abuses were the result of the peace process or because we have --
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: We call all these abuses by the names that they have in international human rights law. They are characterized in each country under certain headings, as you can see in the report. That's certainly the case with the reports of abuses in the Middle East, to the extent that they are governmentally induced, then the governments in question are responsible. To the extent that they are results of other kinds of tensions, they still are human rights abuses but they aren't necessarily resulting from the government.
But let me very clear about the point that you made earlier. We do not look at human rights as expendable in some areas and important in other areas. We see human rights -- and I think our reports indicate that very clearly -- as important in all areas of the world; no more so than today at the end of the Cold War as the issues of various kinds of conflicts and instability and the development of discrimination and religious persecution tend to be fanning certain flames.
It is very important that human rights be pursued everywhere, and we are very clear about that. We use different instruments in the pursuit of human rights in each of the countries in question and they're broader, and very important concern for the promotion of democracy. Those are, of course, ranging from diplomatic means to, in some instances, restrictive means and also assistance in the form of providing monitoring operations, developing investigative bodies, supporting war crimes tribunals. There's a whole range of instruments that can be used to promote human rights. They certainly differ in their applicability from one country to the next, but every country needs to address these issues and we do so through our foreign policy.
QUESTION: In the report, it is mentioned that the elections in 1994, 1995, and 1996 were a success in terms of fair and orderly. But at the same time, in the report you say that several southern states -- most notably, Guerrero, Tabasco, Oaxaca, and Chiapas -- continue to suffer politically-motivated violence. How do you expect this issue is going to affect the next elections in July in Mexico?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHATTUCK: The issue of politically-motivated violence is a serious problem, as we document in the report, in Mexico. We certainly hope that it does not affect and it does not continue. Certainly, if it does continue, it could have an impact.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, John.
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