Key Country Concerns
Bring Balkan war criminals to justice
Top among the administration's goals to consolidate the peace in the Balkans should be
bringing to justice the persons indicted for war crimes who remain at large, including
Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, and Ratko Mladic.
A decade of Milosevic's repressive policies must be rolled back--swiftly and in accordance
with the rule of law--to pave the way for much-needed international investment and
economic development and to set the stage for Serbia's peaceful coexistence with
Montenegro and Kosovo. Short term reform should include: the release of detained
Kosovo Albanians; cooperation with the ICTY, including the transfer of indictees;
annulment of the 1998 University Act, which ensures government control of universities;
annulment of the Public Information Act of October 1998, which severely curtails free
expression; explicit provision for detainees' right to counsel immediately after detention;
reinstatement of the judges of the Supreme Court of Serbia, the Constitutional Court, and
the other judges who were unlawfully removed in 1999 and 2000; and reinstatement of
dismissed university professors and Radio Television Serbia (RTS) journalists. Your
administration should include these among benchmarks for triggering enhanced U.S.
political and financial support.
The past year has seen significant progress, particularly in return to communities
Condition helicopter sale on Turkish reform
Turkey remains an important U.S. ally, key to the pursuit of U.S. interests in the
Middle East, the Balkans, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. Recent years have seen
modest improvements in Turkey's human rights record, though rhetorical
commitment has exceeded actual progress, and neither has matched the opportunity
for reform presented by the virtual end to armed conflict in the southeast. Unless
real progress is made, human rights concerns will continue to confound U.S.-Turkish
relations and compromise the value of that strategic partnership.
Satisfaction of these conditions offers reassurance that U.S.-manufactured equipment will not be used to commit atrocities and, further, that Turkey is working to address the systemic rights problems that have long contributed to its instability. Specific fulfillment of these conditions must include an end to isolation prisons against which prison hunger strikers have been protesting, and independent monitoring of prisons and police stations. These measures would help to resolve the current crisis in Turkish prisons that, as this month's bombings demonstrated, threatens to escalate beyond prison walls.
We strongly urge your administration to hold the Turkish government to its commitment of reform, prior to approving an export license for the helicopters. These same political reforms will also bolster Turkey's candidacy for membership in the European Union.
Prioritize human rights in Central Asia
Your administration will face significant challenges in this important and volatile region, and the human rights situation, particularly in Uzbekistan, should rank high among your priorities. Over the past several years, the Uzbek government has engaged in a crackdown on pious Muslims who practice their faith independent of state-sponsored mosques. The campaign, which escalated after the February 1999 bombings attributed to religious extremists, has cut a wide swath through Uzbek society, sweeping thousands of young men into prison on trumped-up charges, often for shockingly long sentences. Torture and abuse of detainees, suspects, witnesses, and their families is rampant and unchecked. Not surprisingly, these practices have created an environment that is dangerously ripe for escalation of the armed insurgency that clashed with government troops in both Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000.
Uzbekistan faces particular security challenges in a difficult neighborhood. While the U.S. government may determine that it has an interest in helping the Uzbek government address its security needs, such cooperation must be unequivocally conditioned on significant improvements in Uzbekistan's human rights record, lest the U.S. government be perceived as complicit in the much-resented repression. We strongly urge your administration to make human rights a major part of its security dialogue with the Uzbek government. The United States should condition further security cooperation on: access to prisons for the International Committee of the Red Cross, on standard ICRC terms; release of detained human rights activists; unfettered visits by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; thorough, impartial, and transparent investigations into allegations of torture; the vacating of convictions based on coerced confessions; and the introduction of habeas corpus. Moreover, any U.S. security assistance to the government of Uzbekistan should be accompanied by a substantial increase in U.S. assistance aimed at democratization, civil society development, and legal and judicial reform.
Engage with Russia on rights
As United States engages with Russia on a range of important issues, it remains unclear is
whether that relationship will develop on the basis of respect for fundamental principles of
the rule of law. We believe that your administration should strengthen the dialogue with
the Russian Federation regarding its human rights record, particularly the on-going
serious abuses in Chechnya.
Condition aid to Colombia
Engagement with Colombia should be predicated on the Colombian government carrying through with promises to break ties between the military and paramilitary groups, to prosecute members of the armed forces and paramilitaries who have committed abuses, and to pursue, arrest, and prosecute illegal paramilitaries in the field. Paramilitary groups are considered responsible for three-quarters of the serious human rights violations committed in Colombia. Human Rights Watch has detailed, abundant, and compelling evidence that links half of Colombia's eighteen brigade-level army units to these paramilitary groups. Specifically, the United States should condition any further aid to Colombia's armed forces on strict respect for human rights. Human rights conditions on this aid should not be waived. At least half of any aid package should strengthen civilian, not military institutions, particularly the office of the Attorney General, the Public Advocate (Defensoria), and non-governmental organizations engaged in human rights and humanitarian aid work. The Leahy amendment should be enforced and extended to prohibit the sharing of intelligence with Colombian military units that abuse rights.
Reformulate Cuba policy to support improvements in basic civil rights
Over the past forty years, Cuba has developed a legal framework that denies basic civil and political rights to its citizens. The Cuban government silences dissent using prison terms, threats of prosecution, harassment, and exile. In recent years, Cuba has passed even stricter laws and continued to prosecute nonviolent dissidents while shrugging off international appeals for reform and placating visiting dignitaries with occasional releases of political prisoners. To play a constructive role in pressuring Cuba to reform, the United States should terminate its economic embargo on the country. The embargo is not a calibrated policy likely to produce reforms, but a sledgehammer approach aimed at nothing short of overthrowing the government. While failing at its central objective, the embargo's indiscriminate nature has hurt the population as a whole, and provided the government with an excuse for its repressive policies. The embargo has also alienated many U.S. allies, dividing those that ought to act in concert to press for change in Cuba. Until the embargo is terminated, the United States should repeal those provisions of the Helms-Burton law that restrict the freedom to travel between the United States and Cuba. Such people-to-people exchange played a big role in ending Soviet repression, and it could play a similar role in Cuba.
Press China for progress on human rights
Dialogue, trade, and investment in China do not automatically guarantee human rights improvements when China is restricting internet access, imprisoning peaceful dissidents, and making only limited efforts at legal reforms. Dialogue should be accompanied by sustained political pressure by the United States and China's other major trading partners. A formal bilateral dialogue on human rights has been underway since 1991, but has produced few if any tangible results. Dialogue is only useful when combined with other forms of pressure. China should be urged at the highest levels to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which it has signed) in advance of the 2001 meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The United States should explore with other governments joint sponsorship of a resolution critical of China at the Commission.
Your administration should move quickly, in conjunction with the Congressional leadership, to appoint members to the new bilateral commission on China mandated by the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) legislation enacted last year. But the commission also needs a substantial budget and real clout. We urge you to support legislation requiring an annual debate and vote on the commission's report and recommendations.
We also support funding for rule-of-law programs in China to support fundamental judicial reform, as well changes in China's security and administrative detention laws. We urge the new Secretary of Labor to visit China at the earliest possible date to initiate a high-level dialogue on international labor rights. These concerns will require urgent attention as China prepares to join the World Trade Organization. We also urge you to support the adoption of a code of conduct for U.S. companies operating in China, with a mechanism for annual reporting on compliance to be posted on the internet for U.S. consumers.
Support civilian institutions in Indonesia
Indonesia is of deep interest to the United States because of its size, strategic location, and economic resources. But its transition to democracy has the potential for going terribly awry. The country is wracked in several key areas by ethnic, communal, and separatist violence. Some 800,000 persons have been displaced, about half of them from the conflict in the Moluccan islands. Indonesia's weak president is unable to exert authority over an increasingly assertive military which has enjoyed near total impunity for systematic human rights abuses in the past. In this context, we urge your administration to:
Support women's rights in Pakistan
In March 2000, Pakistan's Human Rights Commission reported that, on average, at least two women were burned every day in domestic violence incidents. Yet, successive civilian and military-led governments have treated violence against women as a low priority. The former civilian government totally ignored the 1997 recommendations of the official Commission of Inquiry for Women which found that domestic violence was one of the country's most pervasive human rights problems. Although Pakistan's military leaders, after seizing power in October 1999, condemned violence against women and identified it as a national problem, it has also failed to act.
The United States should encourage Pakistan to implement specific legislation that would explicitly criminalize domestic violence, to repeal the discriminatory Zina Ordinance and to reenact Pakistan's previous rape laws with an amendment to make marital rape a criminal offense. It should also provide funds, through USAID, for nongovernmental organizations in Pakistan that assist women victims of violence, to the Pakistan government for improving its medico-legal services, and for programs to train police, prosecutors, forensic doctors, and judges to eliminate gender bias in handling cases of violence against women.
Protect Trafficked Women's Rights in Japan
Each year, thousands of Thai women are trafficked into debt bondage in Japan. The intermediaries who arrange these women's travel and job placement use deception, fraud, and coercion to place them in highly abusive conditions of employment, in which
they must repay outrageously high "debts" before they can earn wages or gain their freedom. While in debt, women are kept under constant surveillance and forced to satisfy all customer demands. Disobedience can lead to fines, physical violence, and even "resale" into higher levels of debt. Escape from these conditions is often difficult and dangerous, and may lead to violent retaliation.
Although high-ranking Japanese officials have publicly condemned trafficking in women and exhibited some understanding of the slavery-like nature of the abuses involved, trafficked women in Japan still lack any meaningful legal redress. Japanese officials have failed to enforce even the minimal available legal protections. For example, the Japanese government identified an amendment to the Law on Control and Improvement of Amusement Businesses as its primary effort to address trafficking. But the narrowly written law proved wholly inadequate to provide relief for trafficking victims. Most glaringly, the law lacked criminal penalties: revocation of an establishment's license stands as the only punishment for violations.
Your administration should raise the problem of trafficking in persons, and particularly the trafficking of women from Thailand into compulsory labor in Japan, in high-level discussions with the Japanese government. The Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking created by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 should also raise these issues with Japan and seek to strengthen Japanese efforts to assist trafficking victims, prosecute traffickers; and assist in the appropriate reintegration of stateless victims of trafficking. You should also ensure that any anti-trafficking training programs that involve Japanese and/or Thai law enforcement officials emphasize the importance of protecting the rights of victims, ensuring their physical safety, and providing them with access to necessary services, including legal assistance.
Restructure the Iraq embargo
You have correctly identified the pressing need to review U.S. policy towards Iraq, in the direction of rebuilding and re-energizing the regional and international coalition against the Iraqi government. In our view, this can best be done by restructuring the comprehensive sanctions in a way that tightens restrictions on the military capabilities of the government while addressing adequately the public health and humanitarian crisis that stems in large part from the comprehensive economic sanctions that are now in their tenth year. This restructuring requires establishment of a mechanism to monitor Iraq's import of weapons and military-related technologies that would be comprehensive, externally based, and not dependent on the cooperation of the Iraqi government. At the same time, current restrictions on non-military commercial and financial transactions should be lifted to allow the planning and investment needed to restore Iraq's infrastructure to a level that will meet basic civilian necessities. The commodity-based oil-for-food program is inherently inadequate to this task, because it forces people to live on handouts while effectively denying them opportunities to generate household income. Your administration should also continue efforts begun recently by the Clinton administration to establish an international criminal tribunal to indict and prosecute Iraqi officials for whom credible evidence exists of responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide against the Kurdish population. This program, we believe, can work to address the three key elements of an Iraq policy: (1) rebuild international support around the disarmament agenda of existing Security Council resolutions; (2) address the serious public health crisis stemming to a considerable degree from the choking of the Iraqi economy; and (3) dispel any suggestion that addressing Iraq's humanitarian crisis implies leniency toward the government.
Promote accountability in Africa
The costs of impunity for human rights abuses in Africa are manifest in the ongoing cycles of violence against civilians, huge refugee flows, destabilization of neighboring countries, economic devastation, and, ultimately, new waves of violence and repression. Two immediate situations requiring attention are the Great Lakes region of central Africa and Sierra Leone.
The United States has been a strong supporter of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), established to address the Rwandan genocide. However, atrocities continue to be perpetrated in conflicts linked to that genocide, while the ICTR's mandate is limited to crimes committed before 1995. The slaughter of Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in 1996-97, the current ethnic tensions in the Kivu provinces of the DRC, and the ethnic killings in Burundi, are all interlinked. To show that genocide and crimes against humanity will be punished no matter where or by whom they are committed, the United States should support the creation of an international jurisdiction to try atrocities from Burundi, the DRC, and Rwanda since 1994, which would reinforce the impact of judgments from the ICTR. These crimes should be prosecuted, either within separate but coordinating divisions that draw on existing jurisprudence created by the ICTR and with recourse to the same appeals chamber, or within a new international tribunal. Like the Yugoslavia war crimes court, these tribunals should have no fixed date for the end of their mandates. By creating a jurisdiction able to prosecute crimes not yet committed as well as those of the past, the world would deliver a clear warning to extremists of all kinds to resist temptation. Such a strategy also demands that the United States work to change the mandate of the ICTR so that it has ongoing jurisdiction for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since December 31, 1994. In addition, the United States should encourage the ICTR to fulfill its current mandate by also prosecuting crimes against humanity committed in the process of ending the genocide by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the dominant force in the current government.
The United States should also ensure the swift establishment of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. The horrors of the civil war in Sierra Leone--including the rebels' signature atrocity of cutting off the limbs of civilians--finally propelled the Security Council to move toward the creation of a special court to try the worst perpetrators. The United States was instrumental in drafting that resolution, and should press for its swift implementation.
Seek a probe of atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Apply human rights conditions to security sector aid to Nigeria
Since taking office in May 1999 following nearly sixteen years of military dictatorship in Nigeria, President Obasanjo has consolidated civilian rule, offering hope that the country can take its place as a force for peace and stability in Africa. Nevertheless, serious concerns remain, especially relating to ongoing abuses by security forces. In recent months, ethnic and religious tensions have led to clashes in which hundreds of people have died, and the federal government has failed to show leadership in solving these problems or in insisting that the rights of Nigerians be respected by state governments and security forces. The U.S. government can play an important role in supporting legal and practical reforms by the Nigerian government through technical assistance and constructive diplomatic efforts, and by assisting civil society organizations.
The resumption of U.S. security assistance to Nigeria should be accompanied by strict human rights conditions. This includes rigorous vetting to ensure that military, intelligence and police officers responsible for abuses do not benefit from U.S. training. Screening of all military units that would receive U.S. assistance should be conducted in compliance with the Leahy law. This includes the Nigerian battalions being trained and equipped by the United States for U.N. peacekeeping duty in Sierra Leone. The United States should express its grave concern about recent incidents in which soldiers have fired indiscriminately on civilians in conflicts over the introduction of sharia law, and in the oil-producing regions of the Niger Delta.
Return documents to Haiti; Deport death squad leader
In September 1994, U.S. forces seized tens of thousands of documents and other materials from the Haitian military and the paramilitary organization FRAPH. Despite repeated requests by the Haitian government, the United States has so far refused to return these materials without excising the names and identifying characteristics of U.S. citizens. Such a redaction could serve no purpose other than to cover up the complicity of American citizens in political murder and other abuses. We urge you to ensure that these documents and materials are released, in unredacted form, to the Haitian government. The United States should also execute the outstanding final deportation order obtained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) against FRAPH leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant in December 1995. FRAPH was responsible for atrocities under the military government that ruled Haiti from 1991 to 1994, including extrajudicial executions, torture, and rape. Constant, who now lives in New York City, is wanted by Haitian prosecutors. In the past, U.S. officials have explained the failure to deport Constant by asserting that Haiti's judicial system was inadequate to deal with his case. The Haitian government, however, has recently concluded a major trial addressing an April 1994 massacre of slum-dwellers. After a six-week trial, 16 soldiers and their accomplices, including FRAPH members, were found guilty. Six defendants were acquitted. In a separate branch of the same trial, Constant was convicted in absentia. When he is returned to Haiti he will be entitled to a new trial. According to the United Nations mission in Haiti (MICAH), these trials were a "significant step in the fight against impunity in Haiti demanded by the entire Haitian people, and prove that the Haitian justice system is able to effectively try the authors of crimes and other infractions, and human rights violations in general, while respecting the guarantees of the 1987 constitution and the international treaties signed by Haiti."