102. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Rubottom) to the Secretary of State1

SUBJECT

  • U.S. Position on Statute for Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Discussion

The Council of the OAS will take up on Wednesday, March 16, the draft statute for the Inter-American Commission that was created by the Santiago meeting of Foreign Ministers last August to promote respect for human rights. The best available estimates indicate that a small majority of the member governments of the OAS are prepared to approve the draft statute even though it would give to the Commission the right to take cognizance of specific cases of alleged violations of human rights. Nine governments, including Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, are virtually certain to find the draft statute unacceptable in its present form. In as much as it appears that, if a vote is pressed, the statute can be approved by a slim majority, those opposed to it are seeking ways and means of avoiding a vote on March 16 in order to gain time in which to work out a more fundamental solution to the problem. Consideration of the draft statute in the Department,2 and [Page 349]informal consultation with the Department of Justice, have led to the conclusion that the United States cannot favor giving to the Inter-American Commission the right to consider individual cases of alleged violations of human rights. ARA has pointed out that our having to take this position will incur political liabilities in view of frequent charges that this Government does not give positive support to democracy and human rights in Latin America. The fact that our negative position places us in the company of the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Paraguay is somewhat ameliorated by our being accompanied also by Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.

Recommendation

It is recommended that our Representative in the Council of the OAS be authorized to state that this Government cannot accept the statute in its present form primarily because it would authorize the Commission not only to promote human rights but also to enter the field of protection of those rights by consideration of individual cases. Our Representative should furthermore be instructed to vote against the statute in case the vote is insisted upon, but to support any reasonable move to defer final consideration of the matter in an effort to work out a general agreement.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 371.707/2–2560. Official Use Only. Drafted by Dreier. Whiteman, Horace E. Henderson, and Meeker initialed their concurrences.
  2. An internal Department of State discussion of the draft statute of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights indicated that ARA supported its adoption; IO gave qualified support; and L and H opposed its adoption. Documentation on this discussion is ibid., File 371.707.
  3. Herter initialed his approval of the recommendation.