[Page 288]

87. Briefing Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Derian) to Secretary of State Vance 1

Status Report on U.S. Policy on Human Rights

This will bring you up to date on actions which have been taken in pursuance of our human rights policy, in response to the Deputy Secretary’s memorandum of May 3 requesting me periodically to prepare such a summary for you.2


—Personal visits abroad by Department principals have resulted in high level discussions of our policy with many governments.

—The fundamental human rights documents and policy statements have been sent to all our posts and the unified military commands.

—Preparation of both classified and unclassified human rights reports is well advanced.

—High level “quiet diplomacy” and public actions regarding security assistance and aid programs as well as public diplomatic efforts may have contributed to significant human rights actions and initiatives in countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua, Korea, the Philippines, El Salvador, and Iran.

—The Inter-Agency Committee on Human Rights has reviewed and made recommendations on numerous loans both in the framework of the International Financial Institutions and our own AID programs.

—The Arms Export Control Board, chaired by Mrs. Benson, has incorporated human rights considerations into the whole range of its policy actions with respect to security assistance programs and individual arms export proposals.

HA, with legislative liaison officers in State, Treasury, Export-Import Bank and the Department of Defense, helped shape current legislation and answer many Congressional inquiries.

[Page 289]

IO, our missions in New York and Geneva, our mission to the OAS and HA have been working together to strengthen the international institutional framework.

—The President’s signature of the two human rights covenants was a major step forward.


1. Communication of Policy to all Posts

A. The Deputy Secretary’s ABA speech was dispatched to all posts.3

B. In trips by you, the Deputy Secretary, Ambassador Young, Assistant Secretaries Todman, Maynes, Moose, Holbrooke, and myself, the human rights policy has been communicated in the countries visited. We have begun a series of airgrams to all diplomatic posts transmitting information about the recognized non-governmental organizations in the human rights field.

C. A packet of materials has been prepared for distribution which provides an up-date on current human rights legislation; a special Library of Congress study on the status of international human rights agreements; and a USIA set of human rights documents.

D. Human Rights officers have attended regional consular officer conferences in Latin America and Africa.

E. HA has been meeting with Ambassadors and political officers and DCM’s while they are in the Department, on a regular basis.

2. Actions with Respect to Individual Countries

A. Initial drafts of the country evaluation papers from the geographic bureaus have been received and reviewed. Final versions of the classified country evaluation papers and the unclassified report on human rights conditions for submission for the Congress are being prepared for submission to me by November 22 and to the Deputy Secretary by December 15.

B. Particularly in Latin America, the recent trips by Department spokespersons have produced greater awareness of the Administration’s policy and varied forms of response: Ambassador Young’s trip (accompanied by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Rights, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Latin America and Assistant Administrator for AID) resulted in agreement to sign the American Convention of Human Rights in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Barbados.4

[Page 290]

In Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay, the visits of Ambassador Lowenstein, Assistant Secretary Todman and myself were preceded or followed by government announcements designed to reflect improved human rights situations.5 The actions ranged from purely cosmetic to steps which were real but limited in scope. All indicated a desire to diminish the U.S. focus on their repressive practices.

Haiti—Haiti agreed to a visit by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and to sign the American Convention on Human Rights and released several prisoners on the list that Ambassador Young turned over to them during his trip there.6

Argentina—Argentina has rejected our condition on the sale of eight helicopters—a statement that they would not be used for internal security. In addition, arms transfers for internal security purposes have been prohibited. Other arms transactions have been approved or delayed on a case-by-case basis.

Uruguay—General agreement has been achieved within the Department and with the Ambassador not to move forward on internal security arms transfers and to review all others on a case-by-case basis with agreement that the only issues to be decided relate to spares.

Nicaragua—An initial decision to withhold approval of the FY 77 FMS credit agreement was followed by the GON lifting the state of siege.7 The Government of Nicaragua has been informed that implementation is dependent upon continued improvements in human rights. Two AID loans have been deferred for later consideration by the Interagency Group. Additional arms transfer requests remain under review.

Guinea—The GOG stated a willingness to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit. Sending military assistance (patrol boats) has been under review because human rights problems are serious. The Guinea PL 480 program is also under review.

Indonesia—Agreement apparently has been reached with the ICRC for the reinstitution of its visits to prisons in Indonesia although no movement has occurred with regard to visits to East Timor. In addi[Page 291]tion, the Government has reaffirmed its intention to release 10,000 detainees this year. We have urged again that consideration be given to accelerating that process and to permitting detainees to be reintegrated into Indonesian society rather than placed in relocation camps. GOI has agreed, but with restricted movement for a year.

Korea—A demarche has been made with regard to IFI loans and our human rights policy. A proposed commercial arms sale of small arms was delayed earlier this summer on the same basis because of the arms going to Korean police. Additional requests for arms transfers to Korean police are under review on human rights grounds.

Iran—Improvements in the civil-judicial procedure have been proposed in legislation expected to be enacted shortly and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and ICRC have been given assurances of full cooperation in conducting their activities in Iran. The ICRC is now visiting Iranian prisons for the third time. Nevertheless, pending arms transfer proposals with regard to police, particularly with tear gas and internal security equipment, raise serious questions.

Dominican Republic—During the Young visit, the DR informed us of their intention (now fulfilled) to become signatories of the American Convention on Human Rights and, in addition, to release political prisoners (subsequently freed) mentioned to them. They also gave assurances with regard to the openness of the forthcoming presidential election.

Honduras—During the deposit of the ratification documents to the American Convention, the President of Honduras also announced that legislation would be enacted before the end of the year providing a specific date for open democratic elections.

Bolivia—Three prisoners had been released following visits by Assistant Secretary Todman, myself and the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs. Also, during the bilateral talks with the President, Banzer stated that he would give personal attention to the remaining prisoners who fell within the categories of being ill, facing minor charges, having already served more time than the minimal sentence would provide for or who had suffered mental and physical deterioration as the result of the prolonged detention.8 Parents of the U.S. prisoners sharply criticized Department’s efforts in Senate testimony.

El Salvador—In the aftermath of the discussions with the Salvadoran Ambassador and host officials, steps were undertaken by the [Page 292] Romero government to provide protection to the Jesuits. Additional positive actions by the El Salvador government also resulted in a U.S. decision to support a previously delayed IDB loan. Nevertheless, harassment continues to be reported by priests and three Catholic lay leaders were killed by police in late August.9 Terrorism also increased with killing of the former Rector of the University of El Salvador. We have not reinstated previously delayed commercial arms sales and use of prior-year FMS credits.

3. Coordination of Policy

A. The Deputy Secretary completed the initial PRM 28 process with the submission of a completed State Department response to the NSC.10 There remains a possibility for a PRC meeting on issues raised in the PRM 28 paper. This process involved several meetings of the Human Rights Coordinating Group, the PRC chaired by the Deputy Secretary, and an enormous amount of time and effort by the staff.

B. The Inter-Agency Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Assistance as of September 1 had met 5 times since its creation. It has taken action on 56 loans, including recommendations of 6 abstentions, and 23 demarches. Its proceedings resulted in the withdrawal or delay of 10 loans to countries against whom negative votes otherwise would have been cast on human rights ground.

C. The Inter-Agency Committee and the ad hoc staff working group which reports on it have considered loans coming before all international financial institutions, AID FY 77 projects, Ex-Im proposals, OPIC agreements, and have begun the process of considering PL 480 requests. With regard to AID FY 77 programs, two loans to Chile were deferred. The Chilean government ultimately rejected these. Demarches were requested with regard to ten programs, and seven AID loans and grants were delayed.

D. FY 79 budget proposals of AID including PL 480 were reviewed by HA as a part of a comprehensive policy review by H, S/P and other concerned policy bureaus. Recommendations have been forwarded to Governor Gilligan including cuts in budget increases for certain human rights problem countries.

E. The working groups of the Arms Export Control Board, with HA participation at each step of the FY 1979 Security Assistance budget process, considered recommendations from the Department of Defense and the regional bureaus for Under Secretary Benson to put forward to [Page 293]the Secretary as a part of his submission to OMB. HA recommended cuts in MAP, FMS credits and IMETP programs for human rights problem countries.

In addition, HA has participated in several decisions involving individual arms sales both in the framework of the Arms Export Control Board and otherwise. HA reviews all arms export policy papers and its input is invariably included, when necessary.

An agreement has been reached between the Under Secretary for Security Assistance and the Deputy Secretary to ensure that, in the event of a disagreement over security assistance decisions in which the Office of Human Rights believes the decision goes contrary to our human rights policy, an appeal can be taken to the Deputy Secretary.

4. Economic Assistance Actions

A. In addition to the decisions made with regard to the International Financial Institutions and AID FY 77 programs within the Inter-Agency Committee, HA has engaged in discussions with Export-Import Bank to permit our comments concerning the human rights situation in a particular country to be taken into account by Ex-Im Bank in their decision-making. A similar process is being developed with regard to OPIC.

In that regard, Ex-Im, after discussions with our front office and consideration at the Inter-Agency Committee, determined not to lift an existing limitation on available credits for Chile. OPIC similarly determined not to go forward with a country agreement with Uruguay pending improvements in the human rights situation.

Part of the rationale of those two institutions was that such consultation and cooperation with the Department was necessary in order to carry out the spirit of provisions of recently-enacted statutes affecting their programs.

In addition, a pending Commodity Credit Cooperation loan to Chile for $10 million was delayed by mutual consensus at the initiation of our office.

B. In addition to previous actions, the overall development of AID’s future programs has focused on basic human needs and other positive aspects of the human rights policy. However, this positive side to the policy still is not fully understood by the public or the Congress as integral to our overall approach. Some of the unused funds for FY 77 by AID may be reallocated to countries with grave poverty problems and improving or exemplary human rights records.

5. Security Assistance Action

A. In considering requests from countries with serious human rights problems for FMS cash and credit sales or commercial license ap[Page 294]proval, a general trend has been developing, based on our individual decisions, to rule out weapons which could be used for internal security purposes. In addition, weapons going to police and civil law enforcement forces of such countries have been particularly suspect. Restrictions thus have been placed on arms transfers to Argentina, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Uruguay. Some commercial license approvals for weapons to Korean national police were deferred for several months on human rights grounds. Weapons for the Indonesian prison guards were specifically denied.

However, substantial amounts of military equipment continue to be sold to regimes which engage in serious violations of human rights and which deny to their people the ability to participate in government.

If there is one aspect of our policy that is sure to draw, and has already drawn, criticism from human rights advocates of the Congress and among the human rights constituency, it is military assistance and sales. For that reason, it seems appropriate to examine much more vigorously proposals for arms transfers to countries with serious human rights problems even where a judgment has not been made that a particular country falls within the parameters of Section 502(B).

An additional criterion which is being used at times in examining arms transfer requests relates to whether the equipment desired is lethal or non-lethal.

B. After discussions, the Departments of State and Defense both directed by telegram that all human rights policy cable exchanges be made available to the appropriate military attaches, Security Assistance managers, and to the appropriate unified military commands.11

6. Cooperation of Congress and NGOs

A. Together with H, we have been involved in attempting to obtain the most effective legislation dealing with human rights.

B. Foreign Assistance Act amendments of 1977 did not significantly alter the human rights provisions of Section 116 although additional human rights reports covering all economic assistance recipients are now required.

C. After considerable pulling and tugging, language was adopted in the conference on the international financial institutions authorization bill which modifies the Harkin amendment slightly and extends its reach to all international financial institutions.12

[Page 295]

D. The Export-Import Bank legislation13 as well as the PL 480 provision of the Foreign Assistance Amendment14 were altered to require consideration of human rights factors. Foreign Assistance amendments have been signed into law; however, the Export-Import Bank legislation still is awaiting conference.

E. State Department authorization legislation changed the title of the Coordinator for Human Rights to Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs but retained responsibility for all human rights recommendations and for matters affecting refugees and POWs within this office.15

F. While the Foreign Assistance Appropriations Bill was pending conference,16 HA worked with H and appropriate bureaus in developing the Department’s position on these provisions. Most of the provisions involve ear-marking of funds, denying those funds for particular countries. Given the Administration’s desire for additional flexibility, the general principle which we adopted was to oppose such ear-marking but to limit our lobbying to prevent undermining the credibility of our human rights commitment.

G. The efforts to secure ratification of the genocide treaty have continued although the focus of attention on the Panama Canal Treaty ratification presumably has delayed the Senate’s consideration of the treaty at least for several months.17

7. Multilateral Diplomacy

A. United Nations: Continuing consultations by Ambassador Young and others have been aimed at separating the Zionism/racism language to permit the United States to participate fully in the Decade against Discrimination. In addition, those consultations have been designed to enhance the possibility of adoption of the Costa Rican resolution creating the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. At the very least, the effort this year is designed to establish a substantial foundation which would permit us to accomplish this goal at an early subsequent session. We also have been pressing for the creation of an ad hoc committee on torture as an effective step to follow up [Page 296]the 1975 Declaration Against Torture.18 While perhaps less effective in the long run in directly improving human rights conditions than the establishment of a High Commissioner, this proposal or a similar one would seem to be less controversial and, therefore, more likely to gain approval in this session. The Third Committee currently is considering proposed resolutions on this subject.

The office worked closely with the United Nations Mission in encouraging and then cooperating with the Secretary General of the United Nations in his effort to secure a resolution of the sit-in by families of disappeared persons in Chile, an effort which ultimately was successful.

President Carter on October 5 signed the UN Covenants on Civil and Political Liberties and Social and Cultural Rights.19

HA and IO are working to protect NGO’s from attack during UNGA. There is some effort by the Southern Cone Latin American countries to have the credentials of some NGOs challenged.

B. The Organization of American States: Following the OAS General Assembly at Grenada, our efforts to support and strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights Commission have yielded agreement from Haiti, Paraguay and El Salvador to permit visits by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission to their countries to evaluate human rights conditions. In addition, the momentum generated by the President’s signing the American Convention on Human Rights in June20 has influenced a half dozen additional countries to sign, bringing the total number of countries which have either deposited their signatures or agreed to deposit their signatures to 16. In addition, six countries have now ratified the Convention including Costa Rica, Colombia, Honduras and Venezuela. A good working relationship also has been developed with the Inter-American Commission such that an exchange of information has been possible on an informal basis (this should be held confidential). The accessions to the American Convention on Human Rights and agreements by several countries to permit visits by the IAHRC undoubtedly will place a greater focus on that Commission’s activities, ultimately strengthen it and make it a more active instrument for the promotion of human rights in the hemisphere.

C. UNESCO: The preparatory conference met early in August to refine the proposals that were presented to the UNESCO Board in late September and early October, and to establish formal human rights [Page 297]machinery to receive complaints in the areas of UNESCO jurisdiction. A final decision will be delayed until next year. The U.S., with Tom Buergenthal leading our delegation, was a key mover in developing both the machinery and the proposed resolution.

D. International Legal Defense: In conjunction with L, legislation is being drafted to establish the mechanism to support and finance legal defense efforts in other countries. An action proposal on this subject should be available next month. Substantial interest has been expressed both in the House and the Senate, particularly from Congressman Fraser and Senator Cranston, with regard to this matter.


HA has continued to be involved in the process of defining the policy objectives, strategy and tactics for the CSCE conference. Recommendations for accelerated bilaterals with East Europeans, an Inter-Agency Committee to assess U.S. implementation and respond to complaints, and agreement for the U.S. to play an active leadership role in the forthcoming conference, both the plenary and working group, were initiated by this office. Our involvement results both from my being named as State Department representative on the CSCE Commission and from HA’s appropriate role in human rights as it relates to multilateral activities.21

9. Public Diplomacy

As always the most effective communication of our policy has been the actions taken by the Administration. Decisions restricting arms transfers are particularly persuasive. The reports of an emphasis on human rights by Department officials during their trips have a similar effect. Ambassador Young’s trip through the Caribbean and my trip to Argentina are examples. In addition, we have continued to participate in the Public Affairs activities of the Department and to communicate directly with non-governmental organizations both in Washington and at their annual conferences in other locations. The recent surveys of public attitudes on U.S. human rights policy continue to show growing public support for this policy even when in competition with other interests.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary: Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980, Lot 81D113, Box 19, Human Rights—Status Reports. Confidential. Sent through Christopher, who initialed the memorandum. Drafted by Schneider on November 9. Sent under cover of a November 19 note from Oxman to Daniel Spiegel indicating that Christopher had received the memorandum that day. Oxman added that the memorandum was “unduly long;” however, he suggested that Vance might want to review it in connection with his trip to Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela, November 20–23. Spiegel returned the memorandum to Oxman, adding to the November 19 note: “Steve: CV did not review on way to Latin America. How shall we handle? Do you want to resubmit. Dan.” (Ibid.)
  2. See footnote 1, Document 48.
  3. See footnote 6, Document 74.
  4. An August 19 synopsis of Young’s trip, prepared by Schneider, is in the National Archives, RG 59, Bureau of Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Chron and Official Records of the Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, Lot 85D366, Interviews/Bios.
  5. Derian traveled to Argentina in April and August; Lowenstein visited Chile in early August, as did Todman, who also traveled to Uruguay and Argentina. (“Carter Rights Aide, Visiting Argentina, Warns on Violations,” The New York Times, April 3, 1977, p. 11; Juan de Onis, “Carter Aide Again in Argentina For Assessment of Human Rights,” The New York Times, August 9, 1977, p. 4; “Brazil Rejects Visit by Lowenstein,” The New York Times, August 12, 1977, p. A–5; John Dinges, “Visiting U.S. Official Praises Progress on Human Rights in Chile,” The Washington Post, August 14, 1977, p. 36; and “U.S. Official Has Talks in Argentina,” The New York Times, August 16, 1977, p. 6)
  6. Schneider, testifying before Fraser’s House International Relations subcommittee on October 25, indicated that Indonesia, Iran, and Haiti would now permit the ICRC to inspect their prisons. (Bernard Gwertzman, “U.S. Reports Political Prisoners Freed Abroad,” The New York Times, October 26, 1977, p. 3)
  7. See footnote 9, Document 80.
  8. The President met with Banzer and Bolivian officials in the Cabinet Room at the White House on September 8 from 1:33 to 2:25 p.m. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials, President’s Daily Diary) Banzer traveled to Washington to attend the ceremonies marking the conclusion of the Panama Canal treaties. Carter noted that he had met with Banzer, “who repeated that they [Bolivia] are moving toward civilian rule in 1980.” (Carter, White House Diary, p. 94)
  9. See “Jesuits to Stay in El Salvador Despite Rightist Death Threats,” The New York Times, August 15, 1977, p. 14 and Tendayi Kumbula, “El Salvador Charged With Human Rights Violations,” The Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1977, p. A–3
  10. See Document 73.
  11. See Document 70.
  12. See footnote 2, Document 83.
  13. Presumable reference to H.R. 6415, which sought to extend and amend the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 and require the Ex-Im Board of Directors to consider the observance of and respect for human rights with regard to the extension of loans and guarantees. The President signed H.R. 6415 (P.L. 95–143; 91 Stat. 1210–1211) into law on October 26.
  14. See Document 86.
  15. Reference is to P.L. 95–105; see footnote 8, Document 62.
  16. Foreign Assistance and Related Programs Appropriation Act of 1978 (P.L. 95–148; 91 Stat. 1230–1241), enacted on October 31, 1977.
  17. See Document 57.
  18. Reference is to the “Declaration on the Protection of All Persons From Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1975. (A/RES/3452(XXX))
  19. See Document 79.
  20. See footnote 8, Document 47.
  21. The President, in June, named Derian the Department’s representative to CSCE.