IO Files: US(P)/A/M(Chr)/5

Minutes of the Fifth Meeting of the United States Delegation, Paris, Hotel d’Iéna, September 25, 1948, 9:15 a. m.


[Here follow list of persons (32) present and discussion of a prior item.]

2. Continuation of Discussion on Declaration of Human Rights

Mr. Dulles inquired whether the Delegation had completed consideration of the Declaration of Human Eights at its previous meeting. [Page 292] Mr. Sandifer said he regarded the discussion as completed for present purposes. The United States position was simply to seek action on the Declaration on the basis of general debate without article by article discussion. Messrs. McNeil (UK) and Santa Cruz (Chile) had agreed to this procedure. Mrs. Roosevelt noted that the Belgian representative, while himself expressing willingness to forego further detailed debate, wanted to give other states, not members of the Human Rights Commission, an opportunity to express their views on the Declaration. She said that Santa Cruz was suddenly most amenable and cooperative on this matter and had volunteered to attempt to work out a common program with the other Latin American states. There was a general feeling that the Declaration should go through the Assembly as quickly as possible with only brief discussion.

Mr. Dulles believed it was important for the Delegation to make clear just what its view of the Declaration was, stating his own great sympathy with the Declaration and his feeling that the provisions of the Declaration dealing with human rights were very important. He pointed out that unexplained United States support of the Declaration, however, might lead to misunderstanding, if it were not made clear that the Declaration is a general statement of principle and aspiration and not a legal document, standing in relation to a future covenant of human rights, in the same way that the American Declaration of Independence was related to the Bill of Rights. He emphasized that it was important to make this very clear to avoid any unfortunate inferences. He referred again to the statement regarding the right of any person to public employment.

Mrs. Roosevelt emphasized that the Declaration was the result of a combination of compromises. The particular point on government employment was a French proposal. She believed that the opening statement of the United States Delegation should carefully point out the exact status of the Declaration and that an attempt should be made to get this statement published in the American press. As regarded the possibility of Communists in government positions, Mrs. Roosevelt commented on the fact that the Communist party had not been outlawed and emphasized that there was a security clause in the Declaration. Mr. Dulles explained that his only concern was to make the status of the Declaration very plain. He referred to the possibility of the Republican Party picking up an isolated clause such as that on public employment and interpreting it as a commitment by the United States Delegation agreeing to employment of Communists in such agencies as the Atomic Energy Commission.

Mr. Rusk noted that the Canadians had appointed a parliamentary commission to examine the Declaration on the basis that, if approved [Page 293] by the General Assembly, it would in fact set up certain standards which would have to be followed by Canada. There were certain things in the Declaration which frankly worried the Canadians who were anxious to discuss them in detail. Mrs. Roosevelt pointed out that there was no way to prevent discussion but warned that if detailed discussion was begun, there was serious question as to whether the Declaration would be gotten through at all. Mr. Rusk said the Canadians would very much like to meet with Mrs. Roosevelt on this matter; he believed they had a legitimate serious concern since they expected to apply the Declaration in Canada.

2. [sic] Chilean Proposal on Violation by the USSR of Fundamental Human Rights, Traditional Diplomatic Practices, and Other Principles of the Charter. (Mr. Sandifer)

Mr. Sandifer explained that this item had been proposed by Chile as the result of the detention in the USSR of the Chilean Ambassador and his staff, after his refusal to leave the country without his son’s Soviet wife, who was refused an exit visa. The actual complaint was in two parts: a general proposal charging the USSR with the violation of fundamental human rights in preventing the Soviet wives of foreign nationals from leaving the USSR, and a specific proposal regarding the violation by the USSR of fundamental human rights in refusing to allow a member of the family of the ex-Ambassador of Chile to the USSR to leave that country. Chile had broken diplomatic relations with the USSR as a result of this case, and the Chilean Ambassador to the USSR and the Soviet Ambassador to Chile had both been held in custody in the respective countries until September, 1948 when an exchange had been worked out.

Mr. Sandifer pointed out that the Soviet government had consistently refused visas to Soviet wives of foreign nationals and stated that there were about 1,000 United States citizens whose wives had been refused exit visas.1

The USSR had advised the Secretary-General of the United Nations that it regarded the Chilean proposal as illegal and unfounded and as representing interference in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of states. Mr. Sandifer noted that Mr. Vyshinsky,2 in the General Committee discussion of the Chilean item, had referred to the hostile unfriendly attitude toward Soviet citizens abroad, and had stated that it was better to keep such Soviet wives in the Soviet Union than to permit them to go abroad where they would [Page 294] be subjected to unfriendly treatment. A Soviet law, moreover, now forbids the marriage of Soviet citizens to foreigners.

Mr. Sandifer observed that there had been general debate of this whole problem in both the Economic and Social Council and the Human Rights Commission, and a resolution had been adopted by the Economic and Social Council deploring legislation forbidding mixed marriages, or any legislation limiting the freedom to choose one’s spouse or to leave one’s country. The Draft Declaration of Human Rights in Article 11(2) had provision on this matter: everyone has the right to leave freely any country, including his own. The Soviets had tried to amend this by the addition of a clause, making this provision subject to the application of national laws, which would have completely nullified the provision.

The staff recommendations were as follows: (1) the United States should support a resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to give an advisory opinion as to whether the refusal by the USSR to permit the Soviet daughter-in-law of the former Ambassador of Chile to leave that country is or is not in conformity with international law. Mr. Sandifer indicated that this was a proper question for an advisory opinion, indicating that in general, under established principles of international law, with some variations, the family of an Ambassador shares his privileges and immunities. (2) As to the general problem of the detention of the Soviet wives of citizens of various countries, the United States should present to the Assembly its own experience, pointing out the undesirability of separating families, the inhuman character of such treatment of Soviet wives of foreign nationals, but indicating that it is recognized that there is no legal obligation on the part of the Soviet Union to permit these persons to leave.

Mrs. Roosevelt observed that many of the persons involved were married to British and American soldiers before the adoption of the law prohibiting marriage to foreigners. She believed this was an added argument to be made in the case of a number of Soviet wives. She noted that Mrs. Churchill, acting for the Red Cross, had succeeded in obtaining exit visas for certain wives.

Ambassador Austin asked whether traditional diplomatic practices, the basis of Chile’s case, actually made a rule of law. Mr. Sandifer replied that the International Court would have before it the question whether, as a matter of practice, a rule of international law has developed which included the family of the son of the Ambassador in the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the Ambassador. Mr. Gross pointed out that there were well established rules of international law, as to which there was no dispute, regarding the status of the retinue of a diplomatic envoy. The question of the status of members of their [Page 295] families was still an open one. He commented that it was unfortunate that this item had been referred to Committee 6 since it meant that it would be discussed by lawyers who might miss the broad questions of human rights which were involved.

Mr. Thorp commented that the USSR has had a difficult time putting forward any logical arguments on this matter. For example, it would argue that any action in connection with Soviet wives would infringe upon domestic jurisdiction, but at the same time would urge action calling for woman suffrage in all states, certainly a purely domestic matter. He thought this agenda item afforded the United States a beautiful propaganda opportunity. Mrs. Roosevelt said her private conversations with the Soviets had reflected this same Soviet logical difficulty. A Ukrainian delegate, for example, had told her that there were not enough women affected for this to be a problem deserving United Nations consideration, and later had fallen back on the argument that none of the women in question were Ukrainian. Agreeing that this was a good propaganda case, she went on to recount that Bogomolov3 had indicated to her the Soviet position grew out of the situation of certain Soviet women who had married French prisoners and had then returned to France with their husbands. Those women now wished to return to the USSR but under French law were not permitted to take their children with them and so were forced to stay in France.

The Secretary noted that the recommendations in the position paper4 stated that the United States should “take the initiative”. He wondered whether this meant the United States should push the case propaganda-wise. Mr. Sandifer indicated that it simply meant we would press this case ourselves in the Committee.

The position paper was approved without further discussion.

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

  1. For documentation regarding the problem of Soviet spouses of U.S. nationals, see vol. iv, pp. 788 ff.
  2. Andrei Y. Vyshinsky, Chairman of the Soviet Delegation to the General Assembly.
  3. Alexandre Bogomolov, Soviet Ambassador to France and at this time also one of the Representatives on the Soviet Delegation to the General Assembly.
  4. Not printed.