17. Telegram From the Department of State to All Diplomatic and Consular Posts1

38407. Pass to PAOs. Subject: Human Rights Reporting to the Congress. Refs: (1) State 307523, Dec. 76;2 (2) State 5158 (Notal).3

1. The human rights provisions of current security assistance legislation (Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended)4 call for two different kinds of reporting to the Congress.

2. The first are reports under Subsection (B) of the law, which are part of the annual security assistance presentation to the Congress.5

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Nearly 80 of these have been completed, are being printed and should go to the Congress in a few weeks as part of the regular security assistance congressional presentation. They reflect developments as of December 1976; an introductory statement notes that there have been significant changes in some countries since that time. The reports are unclassified and may well be published by the congressional committees to which they are submitted. Copies of the individual country reports are being or have been sent under separate cover to posts concerned. They should not be shown to host governments at this time. At the time they are released to the Congress, posts will be advised and may then, at their discretion, bring them to the attention of host governments.6 Posts not repeat not wishing to do so, should advise the Department.

3. In discussing these reports with local officials, posts should note:

A) That they are required by law.

B) They cover all countries for which the U.S. is proposing security assistance (including FMS cash sales); the fact that a country is reported on does not mean that it is necessarily on any sort of human rights “blacklist.”

C) The reports seek to be factual and do not reach any conclusion on whether a country engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights or not.

D) References to reports by nongovernmental groups such as the International Commission of Jurists, Freedom House, Amnesty International, etc. and international organizations like the International Red Cross, the UN and OAS Human Rights Commissions are required under the law.

4. The second category of reporting is statements, called for under Subsection (C)(1) of the law. Either house of the Congress or its Foreign Relations Committee may request a statement on the human rights practices of any security assistance recipient country. This must be submitted within 30 days of the request or assistance must cease until it is provided. To date, statements have been requested on Argentina, Haiti, Peru, Iran, Indonesia and the Philippines. These were provided in clas [Page 52] sified form initially.7 Subsequently, the Department was asked for and provided unclassified versions of these statements. The Congress can be expected to ask for statements on a number of other countries on which reports are submitted under para 2 above. Posts will be notified when reports are requested.

5. Several points should be noted about these statements:

A) The countries were selected by the congressional committees, not by the Department. The Department has not been informed of the basis for selecting these particular countries.

B) As in the case of the Subsection (B) reports, these Subsection (C)(1) statements make no determination regarding a country’s human rights practices—a point frequently missed in media stories which characterized the statements as State Department condemnation of the 6 countries.

C) On the basis of the facts on human rights practices and the justification for security assistance set out in the statements, the Congress may then decide to enact legislation to terminate, reduce or continue assistance to a country.

6. Finally, Section 116(D) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, provides that the annual AID presentation to the Congress include a full and complete report on steps taken to insure that devel [Page 53] opment assistance is not given to any government engaged in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights unless it will directly benefit the needy people of the country. Under Section 116(B), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee or the House International Relations Committee may require information from the AID Administrator demonstrating that assistance to a country will directly benefit the needy people in that country.

7. To assist the AID Administrator in complying with these requirements, the Department is seeking information on human rights practices from posts in countries which receive development assistance, but not security assistance (for which reports have already been prepared). The studies based on this information will be used internally by the Department in providing guidance to AID.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770060–0446. Confidential. Drafted by Spear; cleared by Tice, Derian, Whiting, Lister, Harris, Goott, Runyon, Michel, Swift, Vogelgesang, Silverstone, and Gamble; approved by Christopher. Repeated to Rio de Janeiro on March 18. (Ibid.)
  2. Telegram 307523 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, December 20, 1976, provided a status report on all human rights reports prepared in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs (ARA). (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760467–0483)
  3. Telegram 5158 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, January 10, 1977, further updated the status of the ARA human rights reports. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770009–0771)
  4. See footnote 5, Document 1.
  5. Vance provided an overview of the administration’s foreign assistance program, including security assistance, to both Senate and House Subcommittees on Foreign Operations on February 24 and March 2, respectively. Vance also testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance on March 23. The advance versions of Vance’s statements are printed in Department of State Bulletin, March 14, 1977, pp. 236–242; March 28, 1977, pp. 284–289; and April 11, 1977, pp. 336–339.
  6. In telegram 46674 to all diplomatic posts, March 3, the Department indicated that 80 unclassified reports would be sent to Congress as part of the annual presentation for the security assistance program. An advance set of reports would be sent to the Senate Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance “to be used informally” in preparation for Christopher’s March 7 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770072–0542)
  7. In telegram 307523 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, December 20, 1976, the Department indicated that earlier that fall, Fraser had invoked Section 502 (B) and had requested human rights statements for Argentina, Haiti, and Peru. The statements were designed to provide Congress with information about human rights in the country specified, steps the United States had taken to promote human rights within the country, and a justification for security assistance programs. The Department sent confidential copies to Fraser in October; Fraser then requested that these be declassified. In addition, Humphrey had requested copies of 17 reports, including those for Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The Department sent copies of the reports to Humphrey’s subcommittee staff, commenting that the reports “will remain confidential.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760467–0483) In an October 12, 1976, letter to Jenkins, Fraser explained that his purpose in requesting the reports was not “exclusively for the use of Members and Staff of the Committee on International Relations. It is important for the American public to have access to this information and to have the Department ‘on the public record’ with respect to its own evaluation of the human rights situation in the country concerned.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P760163–0838) In telegram 5158 to all American Republic diplomatic posts, January 10, 1977, the Department noted that unclassified versions of the Argentina, Haiti, and Peru statements—in addition to ones for Indonesia, Iran, and the Philippines—were given to Fraser on December 29 and were subsequently published by the House Committee on International Relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770009–0771) Ultimately, Humphrey’s Subcommittee on Foreign Assistance released 82 reports on March 12. (Don Oberdorfer, “State Dept. Lists Rights Conditions In 82 Countries,” The Washington Post, March 13, 1977, p. A–1 and Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Says Most Lands Receiving Arms Aid Are Abusing Rights,” The New York Times, March 13, 1977, p. A–1)