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SENATOR JAVITS OPENING REMARKS
Senator Javits. I came this morning because I think these human rights treaties will become another disaster unless they are dealt with and acted on in the proper way. So I want to be here to listen to as much testimony as I can. I want to urge our Government not to make a shambles of this as we have with the Genocide Treaty, which still remains on the shelf only because it has remained on the shelf for so long—all other reasons long having been removed. It is shocking and disgraceful. I hope, Mr. Chairman, that we will not do the same with this. I will do my best to move this forward and I know the Chair will. I believe that will be the disposition of the committee.
Mr. Ambassador, it is very nice to see you here today.
Senator PELL. Ambassador Yost, we welcome you very much, indeed, today. I think you know how glad I am to see you here. We have been friends for 30 years. I am asking all of our witnesses to try to limit their statements to 10 minutes. The full prepared texts will be printed in the record.
Please proceed in any way you deem fit.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES YOST, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR
TO THE UNITED NATIONS, WASHINGTON, D.C. Ambassador Yost. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Senator Javits,
I agree heartily with the remarks you both have made about the Genocide Convention.
I am particularly happy to have an opportunity to testify on behalf of the four treaties pertaining to human rights which are before the committee because, while I was not directly involved in the negotiation of the conventions and covenants they embody, those negotiations occurred, for the most part, during my first assignment to the United Nations, and the process of adherence to them by United Nations member states was in full swing during my tenure as principal U.S. representative at the United Nations.
I strongly recommended signature and ratification at that time, some 10 years ago.
I am not a lawyer and will leave to those better fitted than I, discussion on the legal aspects of the treaties. I do note, however, that our Department of Justice has concurred in the judgment of the Department of State that, with the inclusion of a number of recommended reservations, understandings, and declarations, "there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to United States ratification.”
My comments will relate to the political effect our ratification or failure to ratify has on our relations with other nations and on the implementation of American policies abroad.
As the committee is aware, the support of fundamental human rights, particularly political and civil rights, has been an important element of American foreign policy since the founding of the Republic. If we had the time, any one of us could cite many statements to this effect by American Presidents and other distinguished American statesmen throughout the past 200 years. Conspicuous modern examples were the enunciation of the Four Freedoms by Franklin Roosevelt in the early days of World War II, and the decisive role played by Eleanor Roosevelt in the negotiation at the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on which these covenants and conventions are based.
This policy has been given new impetus by the administration of President Carter. I believe his emphasis on this issue has been among those policies which have aroused the strongest sympathy and applause among the Imerican public.
We have before us now two covenants and two conventions which, for the first time, give broad international sanction and support to these traditional American policies. These covenants and conventions echo and seek to apply internationally much of the Bill of Rights and other provisions of our own Constitution. They represent, to a considerable degree, an international acceptance and application of some of our most cherished principles.
One would have thought, therefore, that the United States would be among the first to ratify these instruments. Yet, in fact, we are lagging far behind.
The Convention on Racial Discrimination, which has been in force for more than 10 years, has been ratified by 104 nations. The two United Nations Covenants on Political and Economic Rights, which have been in force for only 4 years, have nevertheless been ratified by, respectively, 60 and 62 nations. The Soviet Union has ratified all three; yet the United States has not ratified any of them.
There are, in my judgment, few failures or omissions on our part which have done more to undermine American credibility internationally than this one. Whenever an American delegate at an international conference, or an American Ambassador making representations on behalf of our Government, raises a question of human rights, as we have in these times many occasions to do, the response public or private, is very likely to be this: If you attach so much importance to human rights, why have you not even ratified the United Nations' conventions and covenants on this subject? Why have you not taken the steps necessary to enable you to sit upon and participate in the work of the United Nations Human Rights Commission?
Our refusal to join in the international implementation of the principles we so loudly and frequently proclaim cannot help but give the impression that we do not practice what we preach, that we have something to hide, that we are afraid to allow outsiders even to inquire whether we practice racial discrimination or violate other basic human rights. Yet we constantly take it upon ourselves to denounce the Soviet Union, Cuba, Vietnam, Argentina, Chile, and many other states for violating these rights. We are in most instances quite right to do so, but we seriously undermine our own case when we resist joining in the international endeavor to enforce these rights, which we ourselves had so much to do with launching.
Many are therefore inclined to believe that our whole human rights policy is merely a cold war exercise or a display of self-righteousness directed against governments we dislike. We have spoken a great deal of the importance of our “credibility” in connection with guarantees and assurances to allies. Here is a case where our credibility is very seriously questioned, but where we can reestablish it quickly by a simple act of ratification.
I therefore strongly urge this committee and the full Senate to join in removing this impediment to the implementation of basic American principles, indeed this cloud of suspicion which we ourselves have raised around our good name on this fundamental issue.
I am certain myself that we have nothing to hide. We have almost completely overcome the racial discrimination with which we could have been justly charged in the past. Our record on civil and political rights, on economic, social, and cultural rights, is as good as, or better than, those of almost any other nation.
Moreover, the powers of the two international bodies applying the Convention on Racial Discrimination and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are so strictly limited that it is impossible for them to intrude in the domestic affairs of a party to these instruments without the consent of that party. The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights does not even have an implementing body of any kind. Despite the firm conviction of developing countries, more than twothirds of the United Nations membership, that economic rights are more “fundamental” than political rights, because they are more essential to mere human survival, this covenant is in fact merely, as Secretary Christopher's letter of transmittal to the President puts it, a "statements of goals to be achieved progressively.”
Finally, there are the reservations, understandings, and declarations which the President proposes be included in our ratification and which would relieve us from any obligation which could conceivably be considered inconsistent with our Constitution or domestic legislation.
In each case, for example, it is proposed that the United States declare that the operative provisions of the covenants and conventions “are not self-executing;" in other words that, for them to be executed in the United States, appropriate domestic legislation would be required.
With these meticulous and stringent safeguards, it seems to me that plausible objection to ratification of these treaties has been overcome. For the reasons which I have described, Mr. Chairman, I respectfully urge that the Senate, at the earliest possible time, extend its advice and consent to these four treaties pertaining to human rights.
MORE ACTIVE POLICY IN THE UNITED NATIONS AS A RESULT OF
Do you expect that we will pursue a more active policy in the United Nations as a result of the ratification of these treaties? Will it have an impact on our work there?
Ambassador Yost. Well, I would hope so. Of course, we endeavor to be active on these issues now and we always have, but we are limited by the fact that we have not ratified them and therefore cannot participate as directly in the work of the Human Rights Commission as we otherwise could.
ACCEPTABILITY OF RESERVATIONS
Senator Pell. Do you have any concern about any of the reservations, or do you think, in general, that they are perfectly acceptable?
Ambassador Yost. Frankly, I think that some of them may go farther than is really necessary, but if it is helpful in procuring ratification, I would certainly think it was worth accepting them.
AFFECT OF RATIFICATION ON PERSECUTION OF DISSIDENTS
Senator Pell. Finally, do you think ratification would affect, in any way, the persecution of the dissidents who are on trial right now, as, for example, those in Czechoslovakia?
Ambassador Yost. I think anything that we can do and the international community can do to show evidence of deep concern for this matter does have some effect. It is not an instant effect, obviously, but it is a cumulative effect. Therefore, this would be helpful in that connection.
Senator PELL. Thank you very much, indeed, Mr. Ambassador.
Ambassador, I think the case is very persuasive, even on the record, and your support for it is very agreeable and very desirable. I think it carries itself.
As I said when you opened, I will do my utmost as one Senator to get the Senate to act, I hope very much the committee will, too. It is what we practice far more than what we preach that counts, and that is exactly your testimony.
Senator PELL. Senator Helms?
I would like to echo Senator Javits' comments and thank Ambassador Yost for his appearance here today.
Mr. Chairman, would it be appropriate for me to make a small statement for the record?
Senator PELL. Absolutely. This would be the ideal time.
I will summarize my statement and will ask that the whole statement be printed in the record.
Senator PELL. Without objection, it will be inserted in full in the record.
Senator HELMs. I thank the Chair.
SENATOR HELM'S OPENING STATEMENT
Mr. Chairman, the history of the United States has been, in no small part, the history of one nation's attempt to advance the cause of freedom and human rights. Following the end of World War II, we joined with other countries which participated in that conflict to establish the United Nations organization. One of its first acts was the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document remains today a unique expression of international cooperation to secure freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
Nearly 20 years later, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the two treaties drafted to implement the declaration: The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Yet, the unanimous vote of the General Assembly in 1966, in adopting the two convenants, tended to conceal the profound and vigorous divisions which so greatly prolonged the acceptance of these treaties. From the very first discussions in the attempt to codify the declaration, the Soviet Union strenuously objected to article 17 of the declaration being included in any implementing treaty.
Mr. Chairman, the issue was not a minor one because, as you know, article 17 reads: "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."
President Truman insisted that the Universal Declaration contain article 17, guaranteeing the individual's right to property, before the United States would support the declaration. It has been the consistent position of the United States since that time-of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford—that before the United States would become a party to any implementing treaty of the declaration, the treaty must recognize every person's right to property as a basic human right protected under international law.
Mr. Chairman, when the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are presented for the advice and consent of the Senate to their ratification, I intend to submit in the form of an amendment to the covenants, article 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property."
I believe that only in this way can we contribute to the international legal protection of human rights consistent with our own Constitution.
I thank the chairman for generously yielding me the time this morning to make this statement. (Senator Helm's prepared statement follows:)
PREPARED STATEMENT OF HON. JESSE HELMS The history of the United States has been, in no small part, the history of one nation's attempt to advance the cause of freedom and human rights. Following the end of World War II, we joined with other countries which participated in that conflict to establish the United Nations organization. One of its first acts was the adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document remains today a unique expression of international cooperation to secure freedom, justice, and peace in the world.
Following so closely the barbarism of World War II, the declaration was a reaffirmation that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, does not have the force of law. It is not a treaty, but a mere statement of principles. The United Nations then undertook to transform the principles of the declaration into treaty provisions which established international legal obligations on the part of each ratifying state.
Nearly 20 years later, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously adopted the two treaties drafted to implement the declaration: The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Yet the unanimous vote of the General Assembly in 1966 in adopting the two covenants tended to conceal the profound and vigorous divisions which so greatly prolonged the acceptance of these treaties. From the very first discussions in the attempt to codify the declaration, the Soviet Union strenuously objected to article 17 of the Declaration being included in any implementing treaty. The issue was not a minor one. Article 17 reads:
"Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”