234. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs (Buffum) to the Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian Affairs (Hummel), the Acting Assistant Secretary for European Affairs (Stabler), and the Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Davies)1 2


  • Congressional Interest in U.S. Posture in the Human Rights Commission

In a memorandum to IO on February 4, you expressed your concern over our position with respect to the new procedures, in use for the first time at the current session of the Human Rights Commission, under which a number of countries have been cited for consistent patterns of gross violations of human rights. Ambassador Herz, in explaining our intentions and concerns in this connection, referred to the interest in these procedures of influential members of Congress. On February 25 I met with Congressman Donald Fraser (D.-Minn.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on International Organizations and Movements and Congressional adviser to the U.S. delegation at the Human Rights Commission, to discuss a number of recommendations he made in a recent letter concerning the U.S. posture on the cases brought before the Human Rights Commission under the new procedures. In view of your interest in this subject, I would like to bring to your attention some of his concerns, as an example of the pressures we in IO face.

Congressman Fraser recognizes the spectrum of considerations—political, economic, and security, as well as humanitarian—that must be taken into account in our bilateral relations and understands the burdens that an activist human rights posture may place on those relations, without useful results. He feels, however, that the United States should make full use of the UN machinery in this area by operating with an objective, across-the-board concern for all cases involving human rights violations. His specific interest is that we [Page 2] be willing to base our position on the merits of the individual cases before the Commission. He is dissatisfied with what he perceives to be our unwillingness to support even a resolution calling only for additional study of situations in which our own information indicates there is virtually no doubt that a human rights problem of significant size exists.

We have emphasized to Congressman Fraser and others our concern that the new procedures be handled with care and that their potential not be overrated. We are aware of the possible pitfalls, but I hope that you will keep in mind the broad significance of cur actions in this difficult but important area.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P810064–1353. Confidential. Drafted by Thompson and cleared by Stull. A copy was sent to H.
  2. The memorandum discussed Congressional pressure to pursue a more activist Human Rights policy.