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Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you, Monsignor.
I stated earlier as a preface to calling this panel to the witness table, that upon the arrival of our Ambassador to the United Nations, we would divert to his testimony and then continue with this panel.
Mr. Liskofsky, if you would move a little to your right and Monsignor, if you would move a little to your left, I would ask Ambassador McHenry to please come forward.
Mr. Ambassador, we will hear your testimony. Thereafter we will continue with the testimony of our panel.
Ambassador McHenry, welcome to the committee. We are adhering to the 7-minute time limit on opening remarks. Then, of course, there is a question and answer period.
Please proceed as you see fit.
STATEMENT OF HON. DONALD MCHENRY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE
Ambassador McHenry. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for being able to call me at this time. Unfortunately I do not have the full day which I had planned to spend in Washington available to me. Because of the Iranian situation, I have to rush back to New York.
I did want to take the opportunity of this hearing to express my views on this series of treaties before us. I express them both as a Government official and also as one who has had an opportunity, while in the private sector, also to advocate the ratification of the treaties which are before you.
I do not wish to get into the technical details of the treaties. The various provisions and reservations are well known. In fact, there are others who can speak to those much better than I.
I do wish today to present a view from the standpoint of those of us who work in multilateral organizations-in the United Nations and with the various international organizations having to do with these treaties. I want to take this opportunity to reiterate the importance of Senate consent to ratification of the four treaties at the earliest opportunity.
All four of the treaties were transmitted to the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification by President Carter in his message of February 23, 1978. The President's message also transmitted the report of the Department of State on the treaties and the Department's separate report on the American Convention.
The Department's report contains a number of proposed reservations, understandings, and declarations, designed to assure conformity of each of the treaties with U.S. law.
In his message, the President notes that the Department of Justice concurs in the judgment of the Department of State that with the inclusion of these reservations, understandings, and declarations, there are no constitutional or other legal obstacles to U.S. ratification.
In my judgment, the combination of the four treaties forms the potential cornerstone for development of progressive and effective international law for the protection of human rights. Because it is a concept which is the very essence of the heritage of our own Nation, the United States vigorously has sought to stand as an exemplary defender and promoter of that concept. We continue our efforts to
bring other nations of the world around to an equal devotion and commitment to promoting, protecting, and respecting, human rights and dignities of their citizens.
Aside from being recognized as a powerful leader among nations, the United States has been identified as the champion of human rights. With greater frequency, however, we are finding ourselves being criticized for our position with regard to these treaties.
We are, with equal frequency, being branded as hyprocrites not only by the Soviet Union and its followers, but also by otherwise moderate nations which cannot comprehend our failure or refusal to ratify the important basic international instruments aimed at protecting human rights.
By making this designation of the Soviet Union, I do not mean that we have to accept the basis of its criticism. I simply point out that the failure to ratify the treaty allows the Soviets an opportunity for propaganda.
I believe our continued nonratification is detrimental to vital U.S. national interests. As President Carter stated in his transmittal message, Senate advice and consent will confirm our country's traditional commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights at home and abroad.
Failure to ratify the treaties is inconsistent with and impedes our efforts in the United Nations and bilaterally to promote human rights throughout the world. Our representatives to the United Nations and other international fora frequently are criticized, as is the case in the current United Nations General Assembly, for espousing human rights for others while the United States refuses to undertake binding international commitments with respect to the human rights of its own citizens.
Nonratification excludes the United States from participation in United Nations' bodies mandated to monitor implementation of and compliance with the provisions of the treaties. Therefore, it has become increasingly difficult for the United States in good conscience and with credibility to call forth and hold accountable before the international community notorious human rights abusers.
I believe, in order to halt the serious erosion of U.S. credibility and influence in this area, the ratification of these treaties must be done at the earliest opportunity. The act of ratification is important to our credibility as a country devoted to the promotion of human rights. I would urge this committee to respond to the President's request by taking positive action which would lead the way to prompt ratification of the treaties.
In my judgment, Mr. Chairman, too much time already has been lost.
Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
HAS UNITED STATES ANYTHING TO FEAR FROM EXAMINATION OF
HUMAN RIGHTS RECORD?
I would like to ask if you feel the United States has anything to fear from examination of its own human rights record.
Ambassador McHENRY. Mr. Chairman, I never have felt that the United States has anything to fear, even if there are occasions when we ourselves have fallen short. It seems to me that the very fact that we are willing to submit to that kind of examination is a positive development, both in terms of the perception of us and to the extent that others can contribute to an improvement or can give us a perspective which we do not have. It seems to me this is a useful thing.
REINTERPRETATION OF COVENANTS TO FIT IDEOLOGIES
Senator ZORINSKY. By our affixing reservations, do we not allow other nations also to affix reservations and reinterpret the covenants to fit their own ideologies?
Ambassador McHENRY. I think there is a definite danger of that, but I think it depends on the nature of the reservations. In some instances, the reservation, such as the one with regard to the criticism of racial discrimination, clashes with very strongly held views. We do not advocate, for example, the spreading of racial hatred. But it is important also to preserve in this country the right of free speech. I think obviously once you get into this kind of situation, you open yourself up to an abuse of that provision by other countries. I do not believe that any of the reservations with which I'm familiar provide that basis.
ABSENCE OF U.S. REPRESENTATION ON HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Senator ZORINSKY. Has the absence of American representation on the Human Rights Committee affected decisions that it has made and problems on which it has worked ?
Ambassador McHenry. I am not sure that it has affected decisions, Mr. Chairman, but I think increasingly as discussion of human rights questions on suoh matters as racial discrimination move more and more into that committee, it might end up adversely affecting our position. Also, of course, the ability of the Human Rights Commission to operate and function would be very much enhanced if it were done on the basis of set principles, as opposed to the feeling that a particular position or item results almost entirely from a political decision.
MAKING HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE MULTILATERAL
Senator ZORINSKY. Should the issue of human rights be made multilateral, or does making it multilateral dilute the effectiveness of bilateral American efforts?
Ambassador McHENRY. What we seek here, as in other areas, is to slowly build up international standards and to provide a situation where criticism of a failure to observe human rights in a particular country will not be taken as a bilateral problem and, therefore, interfere with our political relations with that country.
We want, more and more, for it to be seen that the position we are taking is a position based on principle and not because of any argument which we have with that particular country. I think you can see this in the current situation with regard to the
in Iran. It is very important and very useful in the current situation that we are able to count on a treaty. The fact that there is a specific set of standards with regard to the treatment of diplomatic personnel is helpful.
So, when the question becomes a question of bilateral relations between the United States and Iran, it is very important that the
other country say whatever the bilateral relations are, let's get this multilateral problem out of the way. This is something that affects us all.
IRANIAN SITUATION AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES
Senator ZORINSKY. Regarding your reference to Iran, the Government of Iran signed and ratified the Civil and Political Rights Covenant, the Economic and Social Rights Covenant, and the Convention on Racial Discrimination. Is the Government of Iran flagrantly violating these treaties or do they rationalize the taking of hostages in some way to be consistent with these treaties?
Ambassador McHenry. I do not want to address what their position is with regard to these particular treaties. I am not sure that the new government has stated any position on the treaties.
One thing is clear. They are in flagrant violation of a number of other treaties. I think the sooner they start observing those treaties, the sooner our hostages will be released, and the sooner we can get on to a discussion of whatever bilateral differences exist between the United States and Iran.
Senator ZORINSKY. Thank you.
Senator JAVITS. Mr. Chairman, I am delighted I was caught at the door when I was about to leave.
Mr. Ambassador, I had heard you were here and wanted to be here for your appearance.
CONNECTION OF GENOCIDE TREATY AND HUMAN RIGHTS TREATIES
We were discussing the Genocide Treaty and its connection with these treaties. Would you give us your view on that, please?
Ambassador McHENRY. As you know, Senator, the Genocide Treaty has a special background and a peculiar importance. It is not only important in historical terms, but I think it is important in terms of the future.
For example, we have had a number of efforts to try and define whether genocide has taken place in a number of other situations in recent times. There has been some difficulty with doing so, in part because there has not been sufficient agreement with regard to a definition of genocide.
I think it is important for us to have a standard around which the international community can rally in circumstances where there is outrageous conduct, such as took place in World War II, such as took place in Uganda, and such as may be taking place right now in Kampuchea.
Senator Javits. Would you in any way link it with these treaties, or would you let it stand alone as it has been pending for so long?
Ambassador McHENRY. I think I would leave it alone, Senator. I think it would be useful if we got to ratifying that treaty, but I would not link it.
Senator Javits. You would leave it a freestanding treaty, as distinguished from these treaties?
Ambassador McHENRY. Yes.
ZORINSKY. Thank you, Senator Javits:
Senator Javits. Gentlemen, would you all please forgive me, but I must leave now to attend another meeting which is also an important one.
COVENANT OPEN TO SIGNATURE BY ANY MEMBER OF UNITED NATIONS
Senator ZORINSKY. Mr. Ambassador, article 48 of the Civil and Political Covenant stipulates that this covenant is open for signature by any state that is a member of the United Nations or party to the International Court of Justice or which has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a party to the present covenant. Does this mean that if the United Nations decided to invite a group, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, it would be allowed to be a party to the covenant?
Ambassador McHENRY. Senator, I am not particularly familiar with that in detail to answer with any authority on it.
Senator ZORINSKY. Mr. Ambassador, then would you be able to submit an answer in writing to the committee upon further research and reflection?
Ambassador McHENRY. I would be glad to do so. (The information referred to follows: COVENANT OPEN FOR SIGNATURE BY ANY MEMBER OF U.N. OR PARTY TO ICJ
(Supplied by Department of State) The answer to the question is determined by the fact that Article 48 specifically pertains to signature and ratification of the Covenant by any “State.” As concerns an invitation by the General Assembly, Article 48 provides for signature by “any other State which has been invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a party to the present Covenant.” Since a group such as the Palestine Liberation Organization is not a State and has never been so recognized by the U.N. General Assembly, Article 48 would be inapplicable. For example, Resolution 3237 (XXIX) adopted in 1974, which provided for observer status for the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been applied to allow for participation by the PLO in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and other international conferences not as a non-member State of the United Nations but as a national liberation movement.
Senator ZORINSKY. As you obviously can attest, the United Nations and its subunits increasingly have become politicized, and this has precipitated threats of American withdrawal from various U.N. organizations.
Is it your feeling that these new enforcement institutions would not likewise become politicized?
Ambassador McHENRY. Senator, there is always the danger that any institution which we create can at one time or another have more or less political overtones to it. One thing is clear. The judgment as to whether it is politicized frequently depends on where one is sitting and what end one winds up with regarding a vote.
I think if we were to ask the Soviet Union, it would say that many of these organizations have been politicized long before now. It would say that simply because in many instances it felt that its view was not being adhered to.
We have increasingly felt that some of the organizations are more politicized than they should be, that they ought to stick with the technical aspects of the questions which they were designed to hear.
I think one runs the risk, candidly, of politicization. But I think it is