864.404/2–1249: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom


508. In view of latest flagrant incident violation human rights Mindszenty case,1 Dept believes time has arrived to take further action than heretofore, which has been confined (a) to protests to Hung Govt and (b) to public statements by leading officials. Dept wishes you to have a preliminary exchange views this question FonOff and report their views soonest. Two main avenues of approach, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, are open: (a) Invocation by one or more signatories including U.S. of treaty dispute provisions and (b) some kind of action in the UN. Of the two courses of action, for reasons outlined below, Dept tentatively inclined to favor invocation treaty procedure, without prejudice whether this should be followed, or supplemented, by some form UN action.

This does not mean we have abandoned studies outlined circular Jan 31,2 but feeling now is some action on the more limited subject violation human rights immediately necessary. This limited approach could be broadened at a later stage to the wider field discussed in circular. Point of this telegram, however, is for you to discuss the more limited problem.

1. Systematic suppression human rights and freedoms which is taking place throughout Eastern Europe is contrary spirit Charter preamble, UN purpose (Art 1, para 3) and pledge by Members to [Page 228] promote respect for human rights (Arts 55, 56). However, any UN action under these provisions against Members (Poland, Czecho, and Yugo) would have to be reconciled with Art 2(7) of Charter. On other hand, Hung, Bulg, Rumania, although not Members UN and therefore not bound by Charter, assumed specific Treaty obligations re human rights and non-discrimination (e.g., Hung Treaty Arts 2 and 3). Systematic violation these Treaty obligations may constitute Situation “likely to impair general welfare or friendly relations among nations”. (Charter Art 14), Although we recognize this would preclude airing violations in Yugo, Czecho and Poland, we feel case wherever brought would be on soundest basis if brought as violation of peace treaties and of necessity therefore limited to Hung, Bui and Rumania. This raises a question on which we would specifically like to have preliminary view FonOff as to whether it would be better to restrict case to Hung only, or to bring broader case on the three countries.

2. Our feeling that strongest case is one brought as violation peace treaties is strong argument for initiating matter by invocation treaty machinery. Another reason this feeling is, even if case is eventually brought before UN, it would be better to be in position to show all efforts had been exhausted other methods along line Art 33, Charter.

3. Invoking Peace Treaty machinery might be protracted procedure, which, however, could serve keep issues before world public opinion for considerable period time. Would appreciate FonOff reaction this point. Efforts invoke Treaty Art 39 procedure while not necessarily prerequisite to steps under Art 40 obviously would have ho results. Similarly, reference to chiefs of mission, while necessary, would probably be futile. In next stage Hung might refuse appoint member of commission under Art 40 on ground matter within its domestic jurisdiction. This question itself would constitute a dispute under Treaty Article 40. SYG of UN who is ultimately required to appoint third member of commission might proceed with appointment regardless Hung position. Conceivably two members of commission could proceed even in absence Hung rep on basis of available evidence of Hung Treaty violations. Obstruction by Hung at any stage of proceeding could be effectively used to keep issues alive and as basis, if felt desirable, for ref UN. One advantage Treaty procedure, if it can be carried through, is that it would end with “definite and binding decision” which Hung under Peace Treaty obligated accept unlike mere UN recommendation. Refusal by Hung accept and conform to adverse decision would constitute outright and legally determined defiance international law. To give emphasis such defiance strong case could then be brought before UNGA under Art 14 or even Art 11 if desired keep case before public. Art 40 of Hung Treaty would permit setting up either one commission or one for each signatory claiming Treaty violation.

4. As to UN action, main questions to be weighted are whether UN could take any action which would be effective, and, if this prospect dubious, whether UN action would be injurious to UN organization. In this connection, we have very much in mind the feeling of frustration [Page 229] brought about by the Czech Case.3 UN action would provide forum for airing entire subject suppression rights and Treaty violations with opportunity for us demonstrate Eastern European peoples contd concern international community their fate. We would expect Hung and other satellites as non-Members would refuse appear before UN to answer charges. Among possible actions would be following:

A general and strongly worded condemnation. Such marshalling, of UN opinion might well have some moral effect over the entire area of eastern Europe and even be some form of deterrent.
Stronger action, involving some form of recommendation for sanctions. Dept assumes economic sanctions would probably be out of question, and that the most that could be done would be a form of sanction on membership. A resolution could provide, that while existing conditions continue, these states are determined, in the opinion of the Assembly, to be ineligible for membership.
A reference to the Court, or a request for an advisory opinion from the Court.
The establishment of a GA commission to obtain evidence and report to the Assembly. Of course, such a commission would be unable to go into Hungary, but considerable advantage might accrue from the hearing by such a commission of refugees.

5. We have considered various UN bodies before which the matter could be brought, including GA, SO, ECOSOC, Human Rights Commission and ICJ. At the moment we would rule out SC, ECOSOC and Human Rights Commission. We would lean towards GA, although still keeping Court possibilities under consideration.

6. What we wish you to obtain immediately is expression of FonOff view, at least in principle, on the invocation of treaty machinery, which, as indicated above, is our tentative preference for action at this time. As to UN aspects, in our view not of immediate urgency, we suggest if Brit concur that they send their views to Brit Emb for discussion here.4

  1. On February 8 Cardinal Mindszenty was sentenced to life imprisonment.
  2. Ante, p. 224.
  3. Presumably the reference here is to consideration by the United Nations Security Council in March 1948 of a request to investigate the events attending the change of government in Czechoslovakia in February 1948. No action was taken on the request.
  4. This telegram was repeated to Moscow as 75, to Bucharest as 43, to Budapest as 130, to Warsaw as 82, to Praha as 176, to Sofia as 37, to Belgrade as 65, and to Rome as 264. It was also repeated to the United States Mission at the United Nations in New York as telegram 75 with the following additional paragraph:

    “Above constitutes preliminary Dept thinking; your suggestions invited. In your conversations with other Dels you shd take line that in accordance with Concurrent Res passed by House Feb 9 Dept exploring all possible courses of action. You shd indicate Dept has not reached decision and although for your private information at present Dept not inclined favor ref to UN at this time, you shd not either encourage or discourage any del considering raising matter in UN.”