59. Briefing Memorandum From the Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Derian) to Secretary of State Vance1

Status Report on the Main Issues of Congressman Fraser’s Memorandum

1. Annual Reporting of Human Rights Conditions in All Countries. Congressman Fraser recommends that we publish annual unclassified reports on human rights conditions in all countries. Background: We are required by law to send annual reports on human rights conditions in all countries which receive security assistance. The reports we submitted this year were unclassified. Their publication took place among cries of outrage from some of those eighty-two countries which considered themselves our friends and allies.2 It was widely perceived by press, public and some other nations as an example of our uneven ap[Page 177]plication of the Administration’s human rights policy. In an effort to avoid this difficulty in the future and, as a result of his own interest in human rights conditions of all countries, Don suggests what amounts to universal reporting. (Note: we are now in the process of preparing human rights evaluations of all countries which will include problems, trends, our objectives, resources, tactics and plans. These will be used as a basic resource for decision making in the implementation of the human rights policy. There is no thought of making these evaluations public or of submitting them to any branch or agency of the government.) Positive Aspects: World-wide unclassified reporting would eliminate criticism that we were concentrating on some countries and avoiding human rights problems in others. It would widen public understanding of human rights conditions throughout the world.

There is pending legislation which will expand our reporting to include all countries which receive any kind of assistance from this government. A strong case could be made for such a practice because the citizenry has a right to know what kind of countries are receiving aid.

Objections: I am not confident that universal public reporting would further our ability to gather allies willing to work with us on improving human rights practices in the world. My guess is that universal dismay would be the most positive reaction we could expect. We have endeavored to avoid sanctimony and a holier than thou stance; such reporting would require us to spend months assuring everyone that we do not feel that we are better than all other nations.

2. Human Rights Personnel. Two additional officers and one support staff person are being recruited now. By June 30, all geographic Bureaus will have designated full-time human rights officers and functional Bureaus will have designated near full-time officers.

3. Attendance at Political Trials. I am sending a memorandum to all geographic Bureau Assistant Secretaries with an inquiry about present practices and their views on methods we might use to establish a common procedure.3

4. Discussions of Human Rights Factors in staff papers and broad deliberations of the IFI’s. I believe diplomatic approaches prior to consideration of loan applications are essential for long-range success; we address the question of how to achieve this in PRM 28. We are examining the possibility of having the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and the UN Human Rights Commission report directly to the IFI’s on human rights conditions. Secretary Blumenthal and Under Secretary Cooper plan to talk with World Bank President McNamara in the near future [Page 178] about ways in which human rights concerns can be factored into the operations of that bank.

5. Legal Defense and Aid Programs: (a) We support initiation of a world-wide legal defense and aid program with voluntary (including US) contributions. I will start exploring ways in which we can act with L, CU, IO, H, Don’s staff and others in and out of government, including the Lawyers’ Committee and the International Commission of Jurists. (b) U.S. Commission for Human Rights: CU funds a wide range of programs and projects to domestic organizations and groups, many of which are directly involved with human rights or have human rights concerns. It is their view that “a U.S. Commission for Human Rights would act as a layer between the funding source and the programming organization, and would divert resources now going directly to the private organizations. In light of the President’s desire to reduce the number of advisory commissions, CU believes the establishment of a U.S. Commission for Human Rights is not necessary at this time, since its proposed activities are already being carried out by the institutional funding mechanisms in CU.” Possible Recommendations: Don Fraser is undoubtedly aware of CU’s many programs and projects; he is probably aiming for a tighter focus and a more coordinated effort. There is a possible alternative to be found in the proposal of Hodding Carter and Joe Duffey for a State Department-sponsored international group in each state with an over-all board at the national level.4 I will discuss ways and means we might employ, though I believe that Don is thinking more in terms of a subsidy to groups like Amnesty International and Freedom House. Will explore in more detail with him.

Country Situations

Note: Appended at Tab A are responses prepared by the appropriate Bureaus on countries mentioned by Congressman Fraser in his memo.5 Below are extremely brief comments of my own.

1. South Korea. Don has heard the case we make for Korean involvement. His memorandum conveys his continued dissatisfaction with our policy. My suggestion is to abandon the practice of responding to each assertion and instead to outline in some detail the specific steps we have taken. It is also important to make a special effort to keep him informed on a week-to-week basis, if necessary, of new representations and initiatives related to Korea. This week, we might inform him that our “yes” vote on a World Bank Korean loan was accompanied by a public statement by the U.S. Executive Director of our human rights concerns in Korea.

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2. East Timor. We will either have to change our current policy which accepts Indonesia’s absorption or will have to take the heat which may be severe. I concur with John Hays’ gloomy appraisal of Indonesian intentions to improve their human rights situation in a serious and substantive way.6 Perhaps I will feel differently after spending some time there.

Spanish Sahara. By virture of U.N. adoption of two separate and conflicting resolutions dealing with Saharan self determination, the issue remains unsettled.7 We are still pressing for regional resolution, hopefully, through U.N. good offices. In practice, we have supported Morocco with military assistance and some may view that aid as giving comfort to Morocco/Mauritania claims over the disputed territory. Algeria is harboring refugees/guerrillas/terrorists and this is the nub of the problem. While we cannot ignore refugee needs, the Sahara is a mess we would do well to stay out of, but I am not sure we can.

3. The Caribbean and Central America. Don suggested we find some “institutional means... to make sure that the U.S. is especially sensitive to the problems of these near-by countries.” Completion of the country evaluations should provide a firm basis for a series of steps we might take to be of positive assistance and should surely heighten our sensitivity as well.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 16, Human Rights—Don Fraser. Confidential With Secret/Exdis Attachment. Sent through Christopher, who did not initial the memorandum. Christopher sent the memorandum to Vance under a June 18 covering memorandum indicating that he would be happy to prepare a response to Fraser based on Derian’s status report. (Ibid.) Derian prepared the report in response to Fraser’s June 10 memorandum (see Document 56). Attached at Tab B is a copy of Fraser’s memorandum.
  2. See footnote 6, Document 17.
  3. Not found.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Attached but not printed at Tab A are the undated Bureau responses.
  6. The East Timor undated response reads, in part: “The previous Administration did acquiesce in Indonesia’s absorption of East Timor after the Indonesians went through an elaborate, stage-managed exercise in Timorese self-determination. We have seen no reason to question the previous Administration’s decision, especially when it is clear that there is not the slightest possibility of reversing the action—nor, for that matter, any evidence that the Timorese would be better off if the action were reversed.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 16, Human Rights—Don Fraser)
  7. The Bureau of African Affairs undated response reads, in part: “In December 1975 the UN General Assembly adopted two resolutions, to a degree conflicting. One, which was sponsored by Algeria, called on Spain to assure that the Saharans could exercise their right to self-determination under UN supervision. The U.S. abstained on this resolution. The other, which the U.S. supported because we believed it offered the best chance of a peaceful settlement at the time, took note of the Tripartite Agreement, and called on the administrators of the territory to ensure that the Saharans would be able to exercise their right to self-determination through free consultations organized with the assistance of a UN representative.” (Ibid.)