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U.S. pledges drive for human rights

Published Oct. 9, 2005

Secretary of State Warren Christopher has pledged a major new U.S. commitment to the cause of global human rights.

Addressing the opening session Monday of the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, Christopher said the Clinton administration would use the issue to define trade and foreign aid relationships with other nations. He used forceful language to say the United States would press for speedy Senate ratification of four international human rights conventions that were signed during the Carter presidency but that have languished since.

His remarks followed an hourlong opening address by U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that was also viewed by observers as more forceful than expected.

Christopher, in his speech, rejected the argument made by some developing nations that different cultures, traditions and social values call for different definitions of human rights. In a stern warning, he declared:

"Those who desecrate these rights must know that they will be ostracized. They will face sanctions. They will be brought before tribunals of international justice. They will not gain access to assistance or investment."

He said the United States also would push for the establishment of a U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights and a new U.N. office to investigate violence against women.

"We must sharpen the tools of human rights diplomacy to address problems before they escalate into violence and create new pariah states," he declared.

Two of the conventions Christopher spoke of aim at eliminating racial discrimination and discrimination against women. The other two are the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Carter, who is attending the conference, said the treaties had been "basically ignored" by Presidents Reagan and Bush.

"In this post-Cold War era, we are at a new moment," Christopher said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Ali Alatas, whose nation currently holds chairmanship of the 108-nation Non-Aligned Movement, argued the case for those nations that reject a Western view of human rights.

"No country or group of countries should arrogate unto itself the role of judge, jury and executioner over other countries on this critical and sensitive issue," Alatas said.