Bahai News -- US Department of State - Kirkpatrick Says Rights Commission Must Help Ameliorate Abuses
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Washington File
03 April 2003

Kirkpatrick Says Rights Commission Must Help Ameliorate Abuses

(Item 9 statement to U.N. Commission on Human Rights) (4270)

The most essential task of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights is
exposing and helping to ameliorate egregious abuses committed by
governments against their own citizens, says Ambassador Jeane
Kirkpatrick, head of the U.S. delegation to the commission's 59th
annual session in Geneva.

"When we survey the globe, we see that the worst situations are also,
in almost every case, the most long-standing ones," Kirkpatrick said
April 1 in a statement relating to Item 9 on the session's agenda:
Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in
any part of the world.

Discussing the situation in Iraq, she said Saddam Hussein's "absolute
personal power has been characterized from the beginning by extreme
brutality. His one-man, one-party police state is a model of arbitrary
government."

The appalling human rights situation in Iraq, Kirkpatrick said, "is
not the cause of the current military operations by the U.S.-led
coalition inside Iraq. But the effect of the outcome will most
certainly be to improve that situation and to restore to the
long-suffering Iraqi people their personal freedoms and dignity."

Kirkpatrick also discussed the human rights situation in other
countries around the world, including Cuba, Burma, China, Togo,
Turkmenistan, Iran, North Korea and Belarus.

Calling on the commission to face the task confronting it, Kirkpatrick
said the victims of abuses in these countries "cry out for meaningful
action."

The 59th session of the Commission on Human Rights runs March 17 to
April 25.

Following is the text of Kirkpatrick's prepared statement on Item 9:

(begin text)

Statement by Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick
Head of the U.S. Delegation to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights
Item 9: Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental
freedoms in any part of the world

April 1, 2003

This Commission's most essential task is exposing and helping to
ameliorate egregious abuses committed by governments against their own
citizens. Year in and year out, the United States monitors the human
rights situation around the world and reports the findings in our
annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Recently some changes for the better which have occurred, give hope
and demonstrate the efficacy of efforts to improve respect for human
rights around the world. In Bahrain, for instance, the first
constitution was adopted; in May, free and fair Municipal Council
elections were held; and in October, men and women went to the polls
for the first time in nearly 30 years to elect a national parliament.
Morocco held free and fair elections in September, and in Qatar, a new
constitution has been adopted and municipal elections will be held in
April [2003]. We applaud their commitment to democracy.

Democratic political institutions and practices continued to develop
in East Timor, with the ratification of a constitution, the election
of a president, and efforts to increase respect for the rule of law
and human rights protections. We also wish to draw attention to the
notable strides taken in Taiwan, particularly the consolidation and
improvement of civil liberties in a manner consistent with reforms to
make its electoral system free and open.

Sri Lanka made progress in implementing a cease-fire agreement between
the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil-Eelam [LTTE]. The
overall level of violence and abuses has declined sharply.
Nevertheless, the situation in Sri Lanka bears continued monitoring as
there have been unconfirmed reports that the LTTE continued to commit
extra-judicial killings and to conscript children.

In Afghanistan, I am pleased to note, systemic human rights violations
have gone the way of the Taliban, and the number of individual cases
of abuse has declined considerably. Serious problems remain in some
outlying areas where the authority of President Karzai and his
government has yet to reach, but the new government is firmly
committed to democracy, the rule of law and the protection of human
rights and fundamental freedoms. The U.S. and many other nations are
working closely with the Karzai government to help Afghanistan
complete its transition to democratic and pluralist political and
social structures.

When we survey the globe, we see that the worst situations are also,
in almost every case, the most long-standing ones. These are the ones
that present a direct challenge to the effectiveness of this body, and
to its member governments. As political scientist B.J. Rummel has
demonstrated, over the past century far more men, women and children
have been killed by their own governments than in war. Other scholars
have corroborated these findings, and have also observed that
governments who do not respect the rights of their own citizens are
those least likely to respect the rights of their neighbors. This
Commission should ponder and confront as a first priority this
phenomenon of "Death By Government."

Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq has been officially exercised since
1979 - almost one quarter of a century. His effective control over
Iraq has lasted longer. Saddam Hussein's absolute personal power has
been characterized from the beginning by extreme brutality. His
one-man, one-party police state is a model of arbitrary government.
Allow me to elaborate.

There is no question who is in control and therefore who is
responsible for the conduct of the Iraqi regime. Saddam Hussein is
President, Prime Minister, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command
Council of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, which under Iraq's
provisional 1968 Constitution governs Iraq, and Secretary General of
the Regional Command of the Ba'ath party. The most recent
justification of the regime's "right" to continue to govern was a
"referendum" in which Saddam received 100 percent of the votes. Of
course this alleged "referendum" included neither secret ballots, nor
opposing candidates, nor free speech, nor assembly. Most voters were
reported to fear reprisal if they did not vote for the sole option on
the ballot.

Civil and political rights exist under Iraq's Constitution "in
compliance with the revolutionary, national, and progressive trend."
The Special Rapporteur on this Commission observed in October 1999
that citizens lived "in a climate of fear," and noted, "The mere
suggestion that someone is not a supporter of the President carries
the prospect of the death penalty." The government, the Ba'ath Party,
or persons personally loyal to Saddam Hussein control all print and
broadcast media in Iraq. The 1968 Press Act prohibits the writing of
articles on 12 specific subjects including those detrimental to the
President, the Revolutionary Command Council and the Ba'ath Party.
Foreign broadcasts are routinely jammed. Books may be published only
with the authorization of the Ministry of Culture and Information.

The government of Iraq has for decades conducted a brutal campaign of
murder, summary execution, and protracted arbitrary arrest against the
religious leaders and followers of the majority Shi'a Muslim
population. Shi'a organizations, as well as those of other religious
minorities, are not recognized by the government. Those Shi'a who
continue to endeavor to exercise their religious beliefs face ongoing
repression and harassment by the secret police, Saddam's Fedayeen
death squads and other security forces. The government consistently
politicizes and interferes with religious pilgrimages, both of Iraqi
Muslims who wish to make the Haj to Mecca and non-Iraqi Muslims who
travel to holy cites within the country.

The Kurdish community of northern Iraq has fared no better. Kurdish
areas have been the object of forced movement and population
transfers. A huge number of secret police and other elements of Iraq's
security apparatus are present in northern Iraq to monitor and repress
Kurdish life. The infamous Halabja incident of 1988 marked the first
time in history that a government utilized chemical weapons against
its own citizens. The brutality of the suppression of the Kurdish
uprising following Iraq's defeat in 1991 was televised throughout the
world and led the Security Council to adopt resolution 688 which, for
the first time, declared massive violations of human rights to be a
threat to international peace and security.

Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that
everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Although this is the shortest, clearest and most direct article of the
Universal Declaration, it is the one which is most often violated by
the Iraqi regime. Arbitrary arrest, extrajudicial killings,
disappearance, denial of due process and vile forms of torture are all
instruments present in Saddam's toolbox of repression.

There is no discrimination against women in Iraq, but they are
subjected to the same harsh laws and brutal treatment as men, adapted
to take account of physiological differences. Under the pretext of
fighting prostitution, units of Saddam's Fedayeen death squads, led by
Uday Hussein, publicly beheaded more than two hundred women throughout
the country, dumping the severed heads at the doorsteps of the
victims' families. The Iraqi government uses rape and sexual assault
of women to extract information and forced confessions from their
family members, to intimidate members of the opposition by sending
them videotapes of the rapes of their female relatives, and to
blackmail Iraqi men into future cooperation with the regime. Safiyah
Hassan, the mother of two Iraqi defectors was killed after she
protested their murder after they returned to Iraq.

Saddam Hussein reinforces his system of fear, intimidation, and
repression, with an iron grip on the political process within Iraq.
Candidates for the National Assembly must be over 25 years old and
"believe in God, the principles of the July 17-30 revolution and
socialism." In the National Assembly "elections" of March 2000, out of
250 seats the Ba'ath party won a large majority, and Saddam simply
appointed 30 members to represent the Kurdish north. "Independents"
won 55 seats, but according to the UN Special Rapporteur, that was
because the Ba'ath Party had some of its members run as independents.
Uday Hussein received 99.9 percent of the vote for his election.

Virtually all-important national offices are held by members of the
Hussein family or by allies of his family from his hometown of Tikrit.
Opposition parties are illegal; membership in some is punishable by
death. The government does not recognize any of the political groups
or parties formed by Shi'a, Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmen or others. To
engage in political dissent runs the risk of death, torture,
imprisonment or simple disappearance for one's self or family members.

The appalling human rights situation in Iraq, which I have only barely
described, is not the cause of the current military operations by the
U.S.-led coalition inside Iraq. But the effect of the outcome will
most certainly be to improve that situation and to restore to the
long-suffering Iraqi people their personal freedoms and dignity.

I would like to quote from a statement by the trustees, including
myself, of Freedom House:

"The post-war effort to bring democracy to Iraq will not be easy.
There are many at home and abroad who are skeptical of even making an
attempt to establish democratic governance in an ethnically and
religiously complex country ruled for decades by a brutal tyranny.
Such concerns cannot be lightly dismissed. But, we are confident of
one thing: that the Iraqi people -- like the peoples of post-war
Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe --
desire peace, seek the protections of human rights rooted in the rule
of law, and want democracy.

"Democracy is not a Western concept, it is a universally desired goal.
It has been defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the
Warsaw Declaration of the Community of Democracies and the OSCE
Copenhagen Document among others. [We] urge a commitment to free
elections, multiple political parties, freedom of association,
independent trade unions, women's equality and rights, an independent
judiciary, separation of religion from the state, an independent
press, and religious tolerance in Iraq and throughout the region."

President Bush has said to the Iraqi people, "As our coalition takes
away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need. We
will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you build a
new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq there will be no
more wars of aggression against .... neighbors, no more poison
factories, no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The tyrant will be
gone.... Unlike Saddam Hussein we believe the Iraqi people are
deserving and capable of human liberty."

It is harder and harder for countries to escape the harsh light of
international scrutiny of human rights practices. Developments in
Central Asia and South Asia, and other regions -- along with the
Middle East examples already cited -- are much more closely monitored
and tied to the international human rights agenda. This is why it is
vitally important that this Commission and its independent members
play their role to monitor and scrutinize the situation in whatever
countries require such observation. Such activities by our membership
and the mechanisms utilized by the Commission can encourage and
support indigenous forces of reform within affected countries.

Governments can violate rights and punish people for exercising
freedoms, but they cannot extinguish the free will and the liberty of
spirit inherent in all human beings, despite the most brutal attempts
at intimidation and repression. We commend the examples of brave
people committed to freedom and acting to advance it in oppressive
regimes that so many live under.

In Cuba, a one-party state where human rights and fundamental freedoms
are routinely violated, the Varela Project, organized by Oswaldo Paya,
has proven a powerful tool for the Cuban people to express their
yearning for an elected and representative government. For a period,
Marta Beatriz's Assemblea provided another venue for Cubans to express
their desire for change. The arrest last week of some 75 Castro
opponents including independent journalists, librarians and Marta
Beatriz herself, is both a glaring challenge to the Commission, and an
indication of the increasing repression by Castro and his regime.

This brazen attempt to intimidate the growing number of Cuban citizens
who dare assert their desire for more freedom, shows the regime's
continuing determination not to loosen its grasp on power. Fidel
Castro cannot afford to let the contagion of freedom spread. We renew
our call to the Cuban authorities to respect the Cuban people's desire
for change -- for change that will end arbitrary imprisonment, permit
a decent standard of living, and free Cubans from the grasp of the
repressive state that permeates every aspect of their lives.

Repression in Burma is marked by a range of human rights abuses
covering every conceivable category: extra-judicial killings, torture,
arbitrary arrest, disappearances, rapes, forced labor, and
conscription of child soldiers. In this brutal atmosphere, even after
years of on-and-off political arrest, harassment and constant
surveillance, Aung San Suu Kyi is still wholly committed to bringing
democracy and a humanitarian rule of law to the Burmese people. The
regime in Burma needs to respect the will of the Burmese people
expressed through free and fair elections and return the government to
their lawfully elected officials.

The government of the People's Republic of China continues to commit
numerous and serious human rights abuses. Despite a promising start in
2002 suggesting China's willingness to pursue meaningful progress in
human rights, recent events have raised the question of a serious
deterioration in the human rights situation in China. Of special
concern are the detentions of more than a dozen democracy activists,
the execution of Tibetan Lobsang Dhondup without due process, the lack
of religious freedom, and the continued detentions of Rebiya Kadeer,
Jiang Weiping, Phuntsog Nyidrol, and others held for their political
or religious beliefs. We urge the Chinese authorities to take steps to
demonstrate their commitment to cooperating on human rights. In
addition, we urge China to act to protect the human rights and the
culture of the long-suffering people of Tibet.

Turning to Africa, in Togo, Marc Palanga, a leader of a local
opposition movement, has been repeatedly arrested and tortured. In
Côte d'Ivoire, civil unrest has given rise to violations on the part
of both the government and rebel forces. In the Democratic Republic of
the Congo, major abuses continue, but Rwanda withdrew its troops by
October, and Uganda currently has only around 2,000 troops left in the
country.

We are particularly pleased that Kenyans exercised their right to
elect a new government in a process that was free and fair. In Sierra
Leone, the civil war was officially declared over in January, the
Revolutionary United Front was disarmed, and presidential elections
were held that were relatively free of violence. War also ended in
Angola with a consequent decline in the number of human rights
violations, but with a worrisome increase of abuses in Cabinda
Province.

Turkmenistan's already poor human rights record worsened dramatically
following an attack on President Niyazov's motorcade in November. The
accused have been convicted in summary trials, there are credible
reports of the torture of suspects, and many family members of the
accused have been subjected to government harassment.

In Kyrgyzstan regional by-elections for seats in the Legislative
Assembly held in Osh in October 2002 were marred by serious
irregularities. Since Spring 2002, the few remaining independent
newspapers have been unable to publish without interference, and the
leading independent newspaper "Moya Stolitsa" was besieged with
lawsuits in December 2002 which threaten its existence. Nevertheless
human rights and political activists continue a lively debate in
Kyrgyzstan, and the Commission and its members should support their
activities. We commend the government for registering the U.S.-funded
Media Support Center Foundation, which will provide a non-government
printing facility and training for journalists.

In Kazakhstan, harassment of journalists continued, the government
selectively prosecuted opposition figures, and a new registration law
had the effect of reducing the number of political parties
participating in the political process.

The United States believes it important that the Commission address
the serious human rights abuses that have occurred in Chechnya. We
recognize Russia's right to defend its territorial integrity and
itself against terrorism. The broader conflict in Chechnya cannot be
resolved militarily and requires a political solution. Human rights
violations by Russian forces in Chechnya need to be curtailed, and
abusers held accountable.

We believe that most Chechens desire peace and an enduring political
settlement to the current conflict. The aim of any political process
must be to convince the Chechen people that it is a sincere and
legitimate effort to end the violence, end human rights abuses,
reconstruct the region and address legitimate grievances. The holding
of last week's referendum has begun the search for a broad political
process. We are encouraged by the proposals on the elements of a
political settlement made by President Putin and other senior Russian
officials. We urge these officials and others to make every effort to
create a positive environment in which a political process can
continue.

We note with great sadness that young children were pulled into many
conflicts, including those in Burma, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In Colombia
as well, both paramilitaries and guerrillas have unlawfully recruited
children, and there is evidence that guerrillas forcibly pressed
children into their forces. In Cote d'Ivoire, the unlawful recruitment
of child soldiers in the armed civil conflict, particularly by rebel
groups, remains an issue of concern.

In Burundi, the government stated that it would not recruit child
soldiers in its war against rebel forces, however, there are
unconfirmed reports that children under the age of 15 continue to
serve in armed forces performing tasks such as carrying weapons and
supplies.

In Iran the government's already poor human rights record has
substantially deteriorated. Citizens continue to lack the right to
change their government, and the government actively represses
organized forms of political opposition. There are numerous reports of
extra-judicial killings, torture, stoning, flogging, harsh prison
conditions, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention. The judiciary
remains subject to government and religious influence. Despite the
initiation of some judicial proceedings against government officials,
many officials continue to engage in corruption and other unlawful
activities with impunity.

The Iranian government infringes on citizens' rights, restricting
freedom of speech, press and assembly. Women and religious and ethnic
minorities face violence and discrimination. The status of Bahais, and
other religious minorities, has deteriorated. Property has been
confiscated, harassment at schools continues, and short-term
detentions have increased. At least four Bahais were among those
imprisoned last year for reasons related to their faith. The
government fueled anti-Bahai (and anti-Jewish) sentiment for political
purposes; Bahais, Jews, Christians, Mandeans, and Sufi Muslims
reported imprisonment, harassment, or intimidation based on their
religious beliefs. Discrimination continues in areas of employment,
education, and housing.

North Korea deserves special consideration under this agenda item. It
is hard to imagine the possibility of a country whose citizens endure
a worse or more pervasive abuse of every human right. This aspect
coupled with the dire famine conditions afflicting North Korea, makes
it truly a Hell on earth.

North Koreans have been subjected to totalitarian oppression for
nearly sixty years. In a society with the most rigid controls on
earth, it is difficult to obtain information, but over the years,
defectors and the few international observers who have gained access
have consistently spoken of the nightmarish conditions in this
country. Generations of children have been completely indoctrinated to
swear their allegiance to a regime which has not had to answer to
popular sentiment for so long that it has lost grasp of reality.
Indeed, political indoctrination takes up more than half of the total
educational curriculum. Even with this kind of thought control the
regime must utilize the most thoroughly brutal repression to maintain
control as its inability to meet even the most basic requirements of
life for its citizens threatens to undermine its grasp on power. This
Commission must confront North Korea on its abominable human rights
record and demand accountability by its leaders.

In Belarus, the Lukashenko regime's human rights record worsened in
several areas. The regime continues to take severe measures to
neutralize political opponents. Security forces beat and/or harass
political opponents, trade unionists, and detainees. Agents closely
monitor human rights organizations and hinder their efforts. The
regime did not undertake serious efforts to account for the
disappearances of well-known opposition political figures in previous
years and discounts credible reports regarding the regime's role in
those disappearances.

The government of Belarus further restricted freedom of speech, the
press, peaceful assembly, association, worker's rights, and religion.
It intensified its assault on the independent media, with journalists
jailed on libel charges and several newspapers closed down. It
prevented the state union federation from becoming independent. It
enacted a new law that severely restricts freedom of religion.

Belarus enjoys the dubious distinction of being the only country in
Europe that has not abandoned the disastrous legacy of the
totalitarian system that held sway for so long in many parts of
Central and Eastern Europe. It is an affront to all the nations who
have broken with their unfortunate past, and committed to the path of
democracy and representative government. This affront must be
recognized by this Commission, and the Lukashenko government must be
called to account at this session. We must support the brave
Belarussian people who continue to struggle against this monstrous
regime.

Zimbabwe represents another situation where a brave and persistent
opposition requires our outspoken support. The government of Zimbabwe
has conducted a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and
intimidation aimed at its opponents. This campaign has been marked by
blatant disregard for human rights, the rule of law, and the welfare
of Zimbabwe's citizens. Torture by various methods is used against
political opponents and human rights advocates. War veterans, youth
brigades, and police officers act in support of the Mugabe government
with sustained brutality.

In the March 2002 presidential election, violence against the
opposition escalated. Irregularities in the election were widespread.
The process was declared "fundamentally flawed and illegitimate" by
international observers as well as the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) Parliamentary Forum. Local elections held over the
past weekend suffered from the same problems.

The Mugabe regime has also targeted other institutions of government,
including the judiciary and police. Judges have been harassed into
submission or resignation. The news media have been restricted and
suppressed, with offending journalists arrested and beaten. Nearly 7.2
million people face food shortages and the possibility of starvation.

In Sudan, twenty years of civil war and unending strife have reduced
the population in both the northern and southern regions of the
country to a desperate state. The United States welcomes the progress
being achieved in the Machakos peace talks. We judge that resolution
of the conflict, when it occurs, will have an enormously positive
impact on the human rights situation in this long troubled land.
Irrespective of that, however, the current status of respect for human
rights in Sudan merits the continued scrutiny of this Commission. The
newly renewed state of emergency permits citizens to be arbitrarily
detained and mistreated for airing political views. Traditional
slavery by means of the abduction of women and children by
government-sponsored militias continues unabated and the religious
freedom promised in law is not respected in practice. We judge that
the Special Rapporteur for Sudan plays an important role -- and one
that must be continued -- in encouraging greater respect for human
rights in Sudan.

This Commission should make its work relevant, and face the most
essential task confronting it. The victims of these abuses cry out for
meaningful action.

(end text)

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