2. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Lewis) to the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Wilson)1


  • Guidelines on U.S. Foreign Policy for Human Rights

I have the following comments and suggestions on the set of guidelines circulated with your memorandum of January 5, 1977.2

Generally the guidelines would be much improved if they gave greater prominence, other than the single reference in the first question of the checklist, to multilateral organizations. I think special treatment is due to multilateral organizations because of the extensive human rights activity in which the three principal ones, the Council of Europe, the OAS and the UN, are engaged. This activity is usually well publicized and is well known to those in Congress who are interested. We should, therefore, take special pains to canvass thoroughly the devel[Page 6]opments in that broad field because of the readily available evidence they will supply of the human rights posture of many governments. An important byproduct would also be the greater assurance that our official positions in multilateral forums will be coordinated with those taken bilaterally and with the Congress. I think the problem of coordination between the multilateral and bilateral in our international human rights posture will be assuming greater importance as the reporting under the new legislation grows and more of the reports are publicized.

The basic standard discussed in the guidelines is that of a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” This key standard had its origin in the United Nations in the human rights framework, namely, in ECOSOC Resolution 1503 which established the new procedures for dealing in the United Nations with private human rights communications.3 Practice in the United Nations in applying this standard certainly should be consistent with our application of the same standard in our bilateral relations, particularly in our reporting to the Congress, and the guidelines should provide for this. I would therefore suggest as a minimum the following amendments to the guidelines:

1. In the sequential checklist of questions, there should be added a question which would assure a determination with respect to a particular country of that country’s general posture on human rights questions in international forums, e.g., the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States, or the United Nations. This would include the government’s support for effective measures through these organizations to render their human rights activities effective, support for multilateral human rights conventions and their measures for implementation, and of course information on instances in which a particular government may be the object of charges of human rights violations. In the latter case, it would be important to assure that account was taken of the substance of the government’s response to the allegations, as well as the extent of cooperation by such government in procedures undertaken by the organization concerned to study or investigate the allegations.

2. In questions 2, 3, 4, and 5 specific reference should be made to possible United Nations actions.

3. Under the section on procedure in paragraph 1, IO should be included among those bureaus which will play a role in reviewing the material relating to compliance with human rights legislation. This [Page 7] would be of particular pertinence in cases involving a judgment as to the existence of a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. An IO role in this procedure would also be important to assure that the positions taken by the United States representatives in the United Nations and other international human rights forums with respect to particular countries would reflect and be consistent with the determinations made by the Department in complying with the requirements of human rights legislation.

  1. Source: Department of State, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, 1976–1977 Human Rights Subject Files and Country Files, Lot 80D177, SHUM—Policies. Limited Official Use. Harold Heilsnis (D/HA) initialed in the bottom-right hand corner.
  2. See Document 1.
  3. ECOSOC Resolution 1503 (XLVIII), adopted on May 27, 1970, concerns the confidentiality of communication regarding human rights violations. For the text, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1970, pp. 530–531.