320/8–2850: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom 1


1070. Subject is GA agenda item on observance of HR in Bulg, Hung, Rum.2 In circam Aug 4, 1950, 12:30 p m pp 2–4 Dept set forth three possible alternative courses of actions which GA cld take in this case next fall.3

Dept has recd and considered views of FonOff set forth in Embtel 1217.4 Request you take up question with FonOff again along fol lines, asking FonOff to consider UK position taking into account our views set forth below.

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Our thinking now progressed to point where we prefer appt by GA of comite of jurists to sit at hdqrs in NY and possibly Geneva to study evidence on charges against three satellite countries and report findings of fact and conclusions to sixth GA.

Our reasoning is as follows:

US and other Allied Govts made charges of serious nature against three satellite govts. We are committed to substantiate these charges before world public opinion despite fact that satellites themselves frustrated peace treaty proceedings. Unless GA conducts impartial inquiry and passes upon facts there will never be clear determination of issues which satellites will claim remain open. In past we opposed Australian proposal for GA Comite of Inquiry primarily on ground parties shld first resort to procedures agreed in peace treaties. Since treaty procedure in this instance now exhausted it is procedure and sound practice for GA to examine charges, expose facts to world opinion and record its opinion on facts.
GA inquiry will provide further proof of continuing and sincere interest of West in fate of captive people of Eastern Europe.
US missions in satellite countries report satellite govts agitated by gradual development of case against them which they can hamper but not block entirely and which for them has element of disturbing inexorability.
Forceful and systematic presentation of facts to comite in course of next year culminating in GA pronouncement thereon in sixth session shld have important value for Western propaganda agencies. As indicated in Airgram Dept has effective material showing operation of Communist pattern of seizing power by suppressing opposition.

On other hand, we fully aware of cons militating against GA inquiry:

Proposed inquiry wld entail across-the-board investigation into operation of political system of three countries including their judicial, legislative, and administrative machinery. Although we do not have slightest doubt as to GA jurisdiction to conduct such inquiry particularly in light of peace treaty HR obligations there may be some question whether sufficiently large majority of Members will be willing support such inquiry. Propaganda value of inquiry wld obviously be impaired if inquiry not supported by large majority.
If inquiry instituted with emphasis on peace treaty HR obligations it might be taken as precedent for GA inquiry into violations of HR Covenant if and when such Covenant comes into effect. Our view is Covenant shld be enforced through Covenant procedures and not by GA. However, unlike peace treaty arbitration Covenant procedure in present form cannot be frustrated by party charged with violation.
If inquiry instituted with emphasis on Charter provisions this precedent might stimulate proposals for GA inquiries into state of HR in many other countries which may not be desirable in present state of development of GA. However, we believe GA capable exercise reasonable discretion in this as in other fields.
Western support of inquiry in this case might raise question of consistency of Western positions in satellite case and in cases involving our friends as in GA agenda item on Treatment of Indians in South [Page 56] Africa. We believe two cases may be distinguished in next session since in Indian case parties made some effort respond to GA recommendation, while in satellite case GA faced with definite defiance. Moreover and of more importance, in satellite case there are HR obligations in peace treaties.
Further question is whether desired results may not be achieved without inquiry by condemnatory res in fifth session along lines of alternative (a) in airgram and provision for circulation to Members of evidence in support of charges. We feel ex parte presentation by interested parties not as effective as inquiry by unbiased UN body.

As indicated above, we favor establishment of GA commis. We hope to secure broad support for proposal. If wide consultations disclose insufficient interest and support, we wld of course have to reconsider our position.

Throughout long history of this matter we proceeded hand in hand with UK and Dominions signatories of peace treaties. We feel we shld make available to FonOff our present thinking with view obtain agreed UK–US position. UK as in past will no doubt wish consult Australia, Canada, New Zealand. You are requested to present to FonOff our view—reached after weighing considerations on both sides—that GA shld appoint comite and to report FonOff comments as matter of urgency.5

  1. This telegram, which was drafted in the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs and was concurred in by the Bureau of United Nations Affairs, the Bureau of European Affairs, the Office of the Legal Adviser, and the Office of Eastern European Affairs, was repeated for information to the United States Delegation to the United Nations at New York, and to the Embassies in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.
  2. The observance in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania of human rights and fundamental freedoms was agenda item 25 of the Fifth Session of the United Nations General Assembly, held at Lake Success, New York, September 19–December 15, 1950.
  3. The three possible alternative courses of action set forth in the circular airgram under reference, sent to 56 missions around the world, not printed, were as follows:

    • “(a) Adoption of a resolution which would condemn the satellite states for failing to cooperate with the Assembly, for ignoring the opinion of the International Court and for violating their obligations to utilize peace treaty proceedings for the settlement of disputes. The resolution might also indicate that this attitude of non-cooperation casts serious doubt on the denial by the states of the charges made against them. Further the resolution might call upon interested Members, particularly parties to the peace treaties, to submit to the Secretary General and to all UN Members evidence to support the charges; this material would then become available to world public opinion.
    • “(b) Appointment of a GA Committee (as proposed by Australia at the last GA) which would sit in New York and examine the substance of the charges on the basis of evidence to be submitted by Members and which would report to the sixth Assembly session at which time the GA could record its opinion on the basis of the Committee’s report.
    • “(c) Provision for inquiry into the substance of the charges by an expert commission composed of eminent jurists or other qualified individuals who would (as in (b) above) report to the sixth Assembly.” (320/8–450)
  4. Not printed. It reported that the British Foreign Office concurred fully with the first two sentences of the American proposed alternative (a) and believed that a draft resolution and debate thereon should be confined to those points. The Foreign Office reasoned that there was no hope of changing the satellite regimes by such an action, the primary objective of which was a maximum propaganda effect. (320/8–2550)
  5. Telegram 1571, September 13, from London, not printed, offered a detailed summary of the British Foreign Office’s reconsidered position on the question of the violation of human rights in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania in the light of the Department of State views presented in the telegram printed here. In sum the Foreign Office believed that it would be wise and would best serve propaganda interests to wind up the question at the forthcoming General Assembly session. The Foreign Office favored working for a resolution which (a) took note of the opinions of the International Court of Justice, (b) deplored the breach of peace treaties committed by the three governments, (c) declared that this could only be explained on the assumption that those governments were afraid of the consequences of an investigation by commissions set up under the peace treaties, and (d) declared that such an attitude by the three governments pointed to their being conscious of having been guilty of breaches of the human rights provisions of the treaties. The Foreign Office wished to avoid disjointed debate on the substance of the charges and believed that the material held in support of the charges could be used with equal effect through ordinary propaganda channels (340.1 AG/9–1350).