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ABSENCE OF U.S. RATIFICATION AFFECT ON OAS
Professor Buergenthal, how does the absence of American ratification affect our relationships with the nations of the Organization of American States?
Mr. BUERGENTHAL. It affects it very seriously, Mr. Chairman, and in a variety of ways.
I have just come back from the OAS meeting at La Paz, where I was one of the two delegates of the court to the General Assembly of the OAS. I found the United States in large measure paralyzed and not being able to promote its own human rights policy because of its nonratification.
The United States was on the defensive when taking a position. Let me give one example. The issue of the budget of the court came up and the United States said that it supports the budget but it felt that it was improper for the United States to push the budget since it was not a party to the Convention. We were told to speak to the Colombian or the Venezuelan representative.
The same situation occurred when we were trying to obtain the adoption of the statutes of the court and commission. Here too, the United States was continuously on the defensive.
Moreover, as one travels in the hemisphere, the failure of the United States to ratify is not viewed the way we view it in the U.S. We may know that we do not violate human rights and therefore do not have to be afraid. We have constitutional problems and legal problems with the treaties. But this is not the way things are viewed abroad. Our failure to ratify is seen as evidence of the fact that we have something to be afraid of, that we tell others to do things that we ourselves are unwilling to do.
Moreover, the position of some Americans-for example, mine—is difficult. I was not nominated to the Court by the United States. The United States could not nominate anyone. I was nominated by Costa Rica and that is a great honor for me. At the same time, I feel like an interloper in that court. I am convinced that Americans on any human rights committee or tribunal would be much more effective in these bodies if they did not have to continuously explain why the United States has not ratified these treaties.
Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you.
U.S. SUBMITTING TO INTERNATIONAL SCRUTINY
Mr. Shestack, there are some fears expressed by people in the United States that by ratifying these treaties we would submit to improper and unnecessary international scrutiny. How would you respond to such criticism?
Mr. SHESTACK. Mr. Chairman, I think that to the extent the United States is subject to international scrutiny, it is all to the best. One of the important aspects of ratification of such treaties is it sets standards which we can follow at home to the extent we already do not.
The United States traditionally has lived in an open society, a free society, and part of the obligations of that kind of society is to submit ourselves to international scrutiny.
One of the effective aspects of United States advocacy of human rights is, when it is criticized in international fora, it says it will try
to make amends if amends are necessary. It tries to redress obligations, unlike many governments.
So this is not a criticism I would fear. I would think the United States would welcome this as part of its own advocacy of human rights.
Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you.
PREVENTING COMMITTEES FROM BECOMING HEAVILY POLITICIZED
Mr. Hargrove, at this time, when the United Nations is heavily politicized, why should the United States trust that these new committees will not also become heavily politicized?
Mr. HARGROVE. I don't think we should trust that they will not. I think we should do our best to see that they do not. Clearly, the only way we can contribute to that objective is by participating in them.
It is to be observed, I think, that the tendency toward politicization is substantially less in these implementation mechanisms, including even intergovernmental committees, and certainly committees of private, officially designated experts--than is the case with the United Nations General Assembly. As I remarked in my own comments earlier, if we abandon these relatively manageable mechanisms and the substantive principles for whose implementation they are responsible, we will find ourselves in a situation in which the operative standards of human rights in fact will be generated by the conduct of states such as Iran, the Cambodian regime, and Vietnam in the current context, and by the United Nations General Assembly, which virtually is beyond our capacity to influence, in the present juncture of things, in any rational way.
If I could, I would take the opportunity to make a related comment in response to Senator Javits' plea earlier regarding a connection between these covenants and current pressing and alarming problems such as the situation in Cambodia.
I would call your attention to article 11 of the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights which, while not stated in the form of a stirring declaration, nevertheless falls with a hammer-blow of relevance on the Cambodian situation. I personally do not know whether either Cambodia or Vietnam is a party to this covenant. But the principal party in interest, upon whom we do have some leverage, the Soviet Union, certainly is. There is no reason at all why we, as a party to this covenant, could not invoke it against the Soviet Union for being in complicity with a flagrant use of the weapon of starvation against what is, in effect, a large dissident faction within one's own population.
Thank you, sir.
ARTICLE 2(1) OF THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COVENANT
Senator ZORINSKY. Professor Garibaldi, you stated in your testimony that article 2(1) of the Economic and Social Covenant might mandate foreign aid or necessitate implementation of a new international economic order. However, the covenant itself, as well as a reservation, states that the rights are to be achieved progressively. In other words, these are goals and not obligations.
How do you relate this to your original comment?
Mr. GARIBALDI. In the first place, I did not make that statement as the favored interpretation. I would not make that interpretation from a judicial point of view if I had to decide.
I was addressing myself to the possibility that the Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights might be misinterpreted or misconstrued, judging from the composition of ECOSOC, which is basically the organ entrusted with the application of the treaty.
I would not be surprised if the language of article 2(1) is read as imposing an obligation to provide foreign aid to developing countries or to implement the so-called New International Economic Order.
Second, I do not agree that the covenant only imposes goals or states goals and does not create obligations with respect to the implementation of those goals. On the contrary, there is an obligation to take steps. On top of that, there are some specific obligations which must be implemented immediately, especially those obligations of article 8 and other provisions which specify the steps that must be taken.
Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you.
Before excusing this panel of witnesses, I would like to ask Senator Javits if he has any further questions or comments.
Senator Javits. I just want to thank everyone for appearing here today. They have been very good witnesses, and their testimony has been most interesting and helpful.
Senator ZORINSKY. I would agree.
We are expecting the Honorable Donald McHenry, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, to arrive momentarily. But rather than delay our testimony, I would like to call on the second panel. When the Ambassador arrives, we might interrupt the ongoing testimony to hear his presentation. Then we will continue with the testimony of our panel,
So with that understanding, I would like to call upon the Reverend William L. Wipfler, director of the Human Rights Office of the National Council of Churches in Washington; Monsignor Francis Lally, secretary, Department of Social Development and World Peace, U.S. Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C.; Mr. Sidney Liskofsky, director, Division of International Organizations, American Jewish Committee on behalf of National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council in New York; and Dr. John R. Houck, who is accompanied by Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr., of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., located in Washington, D.C.
Gentlemen, please come forward and take seats at the witness table.
Reverend Wipfler, would you please begin.
RIGHTS OFFICE, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, WASHING-
I serve as the director of the Human Rights Office of the National Council of Churches. The council is an ecumenical organization of 32 Protestant, Episcopal, and Orthodox denominations whose combined membership is over 40 million persons.
I do not purport to speak for all the members of the communions that are members of the National Council of Churches, but for the governing board, which is the policymaking body and is composed of persons selected by the member denominations. It is this group which determines the policy of the council.
Mr. Chairman, the committee already has heard numerous arguments regarding the domestic and international significance of the covenants and conventions and their legal implications. We recognize that these are matters of substantial concern. But our major interest in this testimony is to demonstrate the long-term and consistent support for ratification of international human rights covenants and conventions that has been expressed by the National Council of Churches, as well as its efforts to implement the principles contained in the international covenants through its own policy,
Throughout its history, the council has affirmed its belief that the universal struggle for human rights is a sign of God's presence in the world, moving humanity toward a more concrete expression of justice. We join with all peoples in the quest for justice, in the fashioning of institutions that secure the creation of those basic conditions that will assure the universal observance of human rights.
It was out of this recognition of its responsibility to participate with others in seeking the means for establishing greater justice and peace in the world that the council committed itself to support the efforts of the United Nations in this regard.
As early as 1951, the governing body declared:
Loyalty to the United Nations involves also persistent efforts to establish conditions of peace throughout the world. To promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to advance the political, social, and cultural well-being of subject and dependent peoples, and to remove the causes of war deriving from economic injustice and deprivation, are tasks to which our nation is committed both by its heritage as a free society and by its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.
During the 1950's, however, internationalendeavors for the improvement of human rights were not notable, and U.S. initiatives appeared to be waning.
In 1960, the policy statement of the national council, "Toward a Family of Nations Under God,” issued this challenge:
We believe that the United States should renew and invigorate its leadership in the promotion of human rights, support the United Nations as a forum for airing grievances, ratify the Genocide Convention without delay
This was in 1960, Mr. Chairmanand support the covenant of human rights.
During subsequent years, we have moved from a position of challenge to disappointment and finally to criticism because of what we feel is the abdication of the United States from a position of leadership in international efforts to establish an adequate international framework to guarantee the protection of human rights.
In 1968, the governing board of the national council issued a very sharp judgment. It then was stated:
The United States has defeated its true national interest by hoarding sovereignty as in respect of the reservations upon employment of the International Court of Justice and the failure to ratify conventions on human rights. Professions by the United States in support of the promotion of human rights and freedoms have not been matched by action to strengthen United Nations' policy or to bring justice to the victims of such practices.
In 1977, in our most recent policy statement in this regard, the council observed:
In promoting human rights, the adoption by the General Assembly of the Universal Declaration and the bringing into force of a series of international covenants and conventions on human rights, the U.N. has helped to focus the world's attention on the requirements of human dignity and fulfillment and to define the goals and the standards for their realization. Despite the fact that these treaties are in force, the failure of many countries, including the United States, to ratify these covenants and conventions and the lack of means of enforcement have helped thwart the achievement of even minimal goals.
The council and many of its member churches have been encouraged by the initiative now taken by President Carter in signing the international human rights covenants and the American Convention and submitting them to the Senate for advice and consent to ratification. We believe that U.S. ratification of these covenants and conventions, as well as the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, will enhance the observance of human rights throughout the world and within our own country. Furthermore, it will give an increased dimension of credibility to U.S. efforts for the improvement of human rights.
Mr. Chairman, the council views the principles and goals embodied in the two international covenants particularly as consonant with many of the aims expressed in the council over the years. We are submitting with this testimony a study entitled, “Comparison of National Council of Churches Policy and the International Human Rights Covenants.” It is a substantive part of our testimony, and if there is no objection, I ask that it be included as part of the record. It is attached to my testimony.
Senator ZORINSKY. Without objection, it will be included with your prepared statement.
Reverend WIPFLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
If one examines this document, one is struck by the number and diversity of council statements which relate to almost all of the articles of the covenants in specific and fundamental ways. We feel that this agreement exists because council policy and the international covenants seek to reflect the highest principles shared by the human community, principles that also are embodied in U.S. values and in the U.S. Constitution.
It is not necessary to review these similarities in detail. But we wish to emphasize that they illustrate a growing consensus in the religious and secular communities concerning those rights which affirm the dignity and worth of every human being.
The document is a careful summary-and I think this is the important point for this testimony-of those human rights matters that have been of priority concern to the Protestant and Orthodox communities which are related to the council as they have struggled with the issues of justice, peace, and reconciliation during the past three decades.
In reviewing this, one can see where those churches are at this time.
Mr. Chairman, the National Council of Churches sees U.S. ratification of the international human rights covenants as a major step in the struggle to assure the observance of human rights and the enhancement of human dignity. We energetically urge the Senate to consent to the ratification of these covenants.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.