Observance of internationally recognized human rights is important, both in
the general formation of US foreign policy
and in specific implementation of recent US
legislation. In order that the Department may proceed most consistently and
effectively in promoting progress in this area, a set of guidelines has been
drafted on “US Foreign Policy for Human
Rights.” These are intended to formalize and make more systematic our
ongoing procedure for dealing with human rights matters.
Should you wish to provide written comments and suggestions on the attached
set of guidelines, I would appreciate receiving them by COB, Wednesday, January 12.
Paper Prepared in the Department of State2
Guidelines on US Foreign
Policy for Human Rights
Progress toward full observance of internationally recognized human
rights throughout the world is one of the central goals of U.S. foreign
policy. To help achieve that objective, we seek social, economic, and
political conditions in all countries which foster observance of human
rights and encourage attitudes within each country that contribute to
progress in this field.
The Congress has recently enacted legislation designed to help assure the
observance of human rights abroad, in the context of certain U.S.
bilateral and multilateral relations:
—The Harkin Amendment to bills authorizing increased US participation in the Inter-American
Development Bank (IDB) and initiating
US participation in the African
Development Fund (ADF) requires that
the US Executive Directors to those
banks vote against any loan or grant to any country that “engages in a
consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized
human rights . . . unless such assistance will directly benefit the
needy people of the country.”3 Similar
provisions have been incorporated into the legislation authorizing
foreign development assistance.4
—The International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act of
19765 states that the US
should not provide security assistance “to any country the government of
which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of
internationally recognized human rights” and that whatever security
assistance is provided should “promote and
advance human rights and avoid identification” of the United States with
governments that deny their people human rights. The Act calls on the
Secretary of State to provide “full and complete” reports on the human
rights practices in each country receiving security assistance.
Checklist for Guidance
Judgments about human rights are necessarily difficult. The Department
cannot provide one set of definitive guidelines for all cases. We think
it necessary, however, that our personnel at least ask the same
questions and proceed as consistently as possible on the basis of
comparable data and standards.
To that end, Department officers—whether preparing reports in the field
or making findings in Washington—should proceed with the following
sequential checklist of questions:
1. What information is available? Embassy
investigative reporting, while essential, is not enough. Department
officers should seek out evidence provided by the intelligence
community, non-governmental organizations, multilateral organizations
and Congressional hearings and weigh carefully the reliability of these
varied sources. Such data should provide the basis for answering the
questions in the following paragraphs.
2. Are there violations of “internationally recognized”
human rights? The prime point of reference for this
determination, in the view of the Department and the Congress, is the
UN Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. The main focus for purposes of both field reporting and
Department decision-making should be on crimes against the person as
described in Articles III, V, VIII, IX, X, and XI of the Universal
Declaration. (See attachment.)6
3. If there are such violations of “internationally recognized human
rights,” were those violations “gross” in nature?
Present legislation makes clear that primary attention centers on
government-perpetrated or tolerated torture or cruel, inhuman, or
degrading treat[Page 4]ment or punishment,
prolonged detention without charges, or other flagrant denial to the
right to life, liberty, and the security of person.
4. If there are such “gross” violations, is there a “consistent pattern” of same? Since no mathematical formula is
appropriate to the wide variety of existing cases, Department personnel
should look instead for regular recurrences (for regional, class, ethnic
or political patterns), and for changes in the extent of violations over
time. The numbers of violations in each category should be reported as
precisely as possible.
5. If there does appear to be a case of “consistent pattern of gross
violations of internationally recognized human rights,” what is the role of the government in question? Department
personnel should try to provide documentary evidence such as laws,
decrees, directives on internal security, etc. showing whether the
government itself, through acts of commission or omission, bears
responsibility for violations against human rights; whether the
government has taken steps to improve the protection of human rights;
and whether that government has cooperated with outside inquiries on
6. Finally, what special circumstances should the
Department, in consultation with the Congress, consider as it formulates
policies for achieving progress on human rights? Our efforts in behalf
of human rights may require us to weigh the following: the degree and
character of other U.S. interests in the country; the degree of U.S.
influence in the country; likely third-country reaction to U.S. action
or inaction on human rights; reaction of democratic elements in the
country concerned to possible U.S. actions; and possible retaliation by
the host country against U.S. positions on human rights. We may also
take into consideration the past and present legal and cultural
environment of a given country, the existence of an internal or external
threat to national security, the violent or non-violent character of the
government and its opposition. However, with specific regard to
implementation of legislation governing development assistance and
international financial institutions, the only exception to making
judgments wholly on the basis of observance of human rights is for
situations on which assistance goes directly to “needy people.”
The above guideline questions for thinking and acting in behalf of human
rights are part of a continuing Department effort to assure greater
progress in this area. To help assure specific implementation of this
goal, the following actions will be taken:
1. In complying with human rights legislation relating to U.S.
participation in international financial institutions, the Bureau of
Economic and Business Affairs will provide a schedule of pending loans
together with information on whether the Harkin amendment is applicable
to the loan or not.
D/HA in conjunction with appropriate
geographic bureaus and H, L, EB and
S/P will review this material to
determine whether, in cases that do not fall under the “needy people”
provision of the Harkin amendment, there is evidence of a consistent
pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human
Should this review result in agreement, D/HA will so notify the Deputy Secretary, who will make the
final decision. Should there be disagreement, there will be a meeting of
the Assistant Secretaries concerned with the Deputy Secretary, who will
either make the final decision or refer the matter to the Secretary.
2. In the case of human rights legislation regarding AID’s development assistance programs,
necessary steps will be taken by the AID Administrator, in coordination with D/HA and the concerned bureaus in the
Department, to take the foregoing criteria into consideration in
reaching necessary determinations.
3. In the case of security assistance, the foregoing criteria will be
applied in the development and review of program proposals by D/HA and concerned bureaus of the
Department through the regular processes of the Security Assistance
Review Committee and any successor organizations.