L/UNA files, “Human Rights—Conventions and Treaties—1949–1965”
Memorandum by the Legal Adviser (Phleger) and the Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to the Secretary of State1
- United States Policy Regarding Draft International Covenants on Human Rights
Since the meeting in your office last week,2 we have discussed further with Mrs. Lord3 the problem of a change in United States policy toward the Human Rights Covenants. The memorandum which is attached has been prepared in the light of these discussions. It sets forth arguments for and arguments against a change in the policy of support for the Covenants. It then goes on to suggest three possible courses of action which might be followed if a decision is made to change the policy which this Government has pursued up to the present time. These courses are considered in terms of their effectiveness in accomplishing a change in United States policy with the least damage to our public position at home and abroad.
When a decision is reached on the question of basic policy and on the course to be followed if a change in policy is decided upon, we expect to work with Mrs. Lord further on the preparation of a general policy statement for her to make in the Human Rights Commission at its forthcoming session in Geneva.
If a decision is made to change United States policy toward the Covenants, it has occurred to us that it might be useful to include in a letter of instructions to Mrs. Lord prior to her departure for Geneva the following elements: (1) a recital of United States efforts for several years on drafting the Covenants in the Human Rights Commission, which has been proceeding under instructions from the General Assembly; (2) a statement of our view that codification of human rights in the Covenants is not an appropriate and effective way of furthering the observance of human rights throughout the world at the present stage in international relations; (3) an authorization to the United States representative to put forward methods other than the Covenants for appropriate action through the United Nations to further the goals proclaimed in the Declaration of Human Rights; and (4) statements of the importance attached by this Government to the pursuit of human-rights goal through appropriate procedures in the United Nations and of wholehearted support for suitable steps to this end. In the event of a decision to change existing United States [Page 1550] policy toward the Covenants, the change would presumably be foreshadowed if not announced in your testimony before the Senate committee holding hearings on the Bricker amendments to the Constitution. It is, therefore, our thought that you might wish to make a public release of the letter of instructions to Mrs. Lord before her departure. Public indications of a changed policy, in the hearings on the Bricker amendments and in a letter to Mrs. Lord, could be helpful in reassuring large numbers of people in this country about United States participation in the United Nations and could prepare the ground for Mrs. Lord’s work at the session of the Human Rights Commission by making it clear that her actions in Geneva stem from instructions given by the highest authorities in this Government.
- Drafted by the Assistant Legal Adviser for UN Affairs (Meeker).↩
- No record of this meeting has been found in Department of State files.↩
- Mrs. Oswald B. Lord was U.S. Representative on the UN Commission on Human Rights.↩
- Drafted by Meeker and an officer of his staff, W. E. Hewitt. The two officers had jointly prepared a draft on Feb. 16 which differed from the instant memorandum in form, substance, and emphasis, although much of the material was the same and simply presented differently (memorandum by Meeker and Hewitt, Feb. 16, 1953, L/UNA files, “Human Rights—Conventions and Treaties—1949–1965”).↩