The epidemic of communal violence in 1992 highlights the importance of human rights to the maintenance of global peace. From the genocidal "ethnic cleansing" of former Yugoslavia to the brutal conflicts in the former Soviet Union and many countries of Africa and Asia, violence has taken root between people who share the same terrain but differ in ethnicity, race, language or religion. Most of these crises have severe governmental abuses at their core, and their solution depends significantly on a reaffirmation of tolerance and respect for the individual. As the world grapples with this outbreak of violence, the need for a consistent and firm commitment to human rights is as acute as ever.
Since many of these conflicts did not erupt until the rigid structures of the Cold War began to crumble, they are often viewed as the product of deep and abiding animosities that only authoritarian governments can contain. Yet 1992 has made clear that the roots of most of these conflicts lie less in eternal antagonisms than in particular governmental abuses that exacerbate communal tensions. To understand and reverse these policies by promoting consistent respect for human rights is to begin to pursue the tolerance and sense of community that is needed to resolve these conflicts and avoid future conflagrations.
The U.S. government has a critical role to play in affirming the importance of human rights in reducing communal strife. Yet for much of the past 12 years, the Bush and Reagan administrations were mired in a paradigm that treated human rights as little more than periodic elections. Often these administrations lent moral or financial support to figures with dubious human rights credentials because they offered a chance to reverse communist rule. Once an elected government was in office, they justified a hands-off human rights policy by arguing that elected governments were less likely to commit abuses.
The fruits of this shallow vision of democracy have been reaped in the emergence of a series of elected tyrants whose one-time designation as "freedom fighters" cannot mask their appeal to hatred, intolerance and virulent nationalism. The view of elections as a human rights panacea belongs in the same bin of ill-conceived ideas as the argument that right-wing "authoritarian" governments deserve greater deference on human rights matters than their communist "totalitarian" counterparts.
The incoming Clinton administration faces the challenge of articulating a more complete vision of human rights to inform U.S. foreign policy in the face of mounting communal strife. This vision must move beyond the artificial simplicities of the Cold War to meet the challenges and complexities of today's world. It must recognize that repression can emerge from the ballot box as well as by force of arms, that human rights principles lose much of their force if not applied to friends and foes alike, and that the quest for peace, security and prosperity is handicapped without the vigorous promotion of human rights.
The Roots of Communal Violence
A review of the major communal conflicts of 1992 reveals how often their origins lie in abusive governmental policies. Some governments use divide-and-conquer strategies, based on ethnicity, religion or other factors, to develop a cadre of loyal supporters. Others justify human rights violations as necessary to counter separatist or independence movements. Some governments foment ethnic violence to fend off calls for democratization. Other political leaders seek to acquire or maintain power through appeals to communal antagonisms. Conflict is accelerated by those who equate the state with a single ethnic group and place an undue emphasis on collective interests over the securing of individual rights. And violence finds fertile terrain in societies whose independent institutions have been blighted by a range of other human rights violations.
Some of the most serious communal conflicts of 1992 emerged from governmental efforts to build political alliances through the discriminatory distribution of benefits and the discriminatory repression of rivals.
· In Liberia, the bitterness engendered by former President Samuel Doe's favoritism toward his Krahn ethnic group and his repression of others unleashed revenge killings in 1990 and a civil war that has now resumed after two years of unstable peace.
· In Somalia, deposed dictator Mohamed Siad Barre's violent discrimination spawned the clan and subclan fighting that underlies today's devastating famine.
· In Sri Lanka, a history of Sinhalese discrimination against the Tamil minority, together with violence by Tamil militant groups, have produced a particularly vicious war that has killed thousands and displaced over a million and a half since June 1990.
· In Sudan, long-term discrimination by the dominant Arab-Islamic north against the black-animist/Christian south is at the root of a brutal conflict that threatens resumed famine on the order of the 1988 disaster.
In other cases, a government's abusive response to a separatist or independence movement stokes ethnic conflict. What might have been resolved through political compromise degenerates into a cycle of violence once respect for human rights is undermined.
· The Indian government's use of murder, disappearance and torture to combat separatists in Kashmir, Punjab and Assam has sharpened antagonisms. Separatist militants, in turn, have attacked noncombatants and committed grave abuses.
· The escalating conflict in Nagorno Karabakh has been fueled by "ethnic cleansing," indiscriminate shelling, and attacks on civilians by both Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.
· Long-term discrimination and torture by the Turkish governmentin confronting Kurdish separatists, coupled with a troubling increase in assassinations, have led to spiraling violence in southeastern Turkey and a Kurdish insurgency that itself is responsible for serious abuses.
· The prospects for maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq are vastly complicated by emerging evidence of Baghdad's genocidal Anfal campaign of 1988 against those deemed to be Kurdish separatists and their supporters.
· The confidence needed for progress in the Arab-Israeli peace talks has been undermined by continuing systematic abuses by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and by the use of summary execution and torture by both Israeli security forces and Palestinian extremists.
In some cases, governments seeking to resist pressures for democratization have fomented ethnic violence in a cynical effort to prove that only the strong hand of a dictator can hold the country together.
· In Kenya, the government of President Daniel arap Moi has fomented tribal tensions in an effort to fulfill its prediction that political pluralism will degenerate into tribal conflict.
· In Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida has continued to postpone the long-promised transition to elected government, in part because of ethnic conflict that has left thousands dead as government forces stand by and at times abet the fighting.
· While the South African government remains formally committed to a transition to majority rule based on universal suffrage, elements within it continue to foment violence among blacks with the apparent aim of sabotaging the long-awaited democratic transition.
· In Zaire, henchmen of President Mobutu Sese Seko, including "special divisions" of the army, have resisted democratic pressures by attacking civilians and engaging in looting with the aim of showing that only Mobutu can hold the country together.
Several ethnic conflicts were spawned by elected governments that have found popularity in appeals to the basest form of nationalism and ethnic exclusion.
· Serbian Prime Minister Slobodan Milosevic was elected on a platform of nationalist hatred that foreshadowed the policy of "ethnic cleansing" that Serbian forces have pursued in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
· The nationalist rhetoric of elected Croatian President Franjo Tudjman contributed to the ethnic tensions in the region.
· In Azerbaijan, Moldova and other new states of the former Soviet Union, leaders have come to power through explicitly nationalistappeals, aggravating ongoing wars and risking the outbreak of new ones.
The lesson of these conflicts is that human rights violations by governments play a large role in transforming communal differences into violent clashes. The answer to halting or preventing such violence lies not in a return to an authoritarian past but in an end to the official abuse that fuels this strife.
Citizenship and the Nation-State
A less tangible but nonetheless important contribution to the explosion of communal strife is the equation of the state-a governing structure-with the nation-a particular ethnic group. In the Cold War world of inviolable borders, it was generally assumed that the members of a nation-state were those who resided within it. But as maps are now redrawn, citizenship, too, has been put in jeopardy. In Estonia and Latvia, an indiscriminate approach toward rectifying the injustices of the Soviet occupation has led to the potential disenfranchisement of large segments of the Russian-speaking population, including many who have lived their entire lives in the Baltics. Similar discrimination can be found in the Kuwaiti government's continuing refusal to recognize the citizenship of its native Bedoon population, the Dominican government's refusal to recognize the citizenship of many Dominican-born ethnic Haitians, the Burmese government's violent expulsion of Muslim Rohingyas, and the German government's virtual refusal to grant citizenship to those of non-German origin.
Behind these acts lies a conception of the state as a single national group. Yet this ideal nation-state does not exist. The natural shifting of populations has meant that virtually no place on earth is ethnically pure. Ethnic homogeneity can be achieved only at the cost of the sort of ruthless "ethnic cleansing" that is occurring in former Yugoslavia.
A quest for ethnic purity can heighten tensions and lead to strife whether a majority seeks to expel a minority or a minority hopes to break away from a majority. The ethnic Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina did not succumb to the Serbian leader Milosevic's incitement to "ethnic cleansing" until they found themselves minorities in newly proclaimed states. Slovakia is facing rising tensions with Hungary because its ethnic Hungarians feel less secure as the principal minority in an increasingly nationalistic Slovakia than as one of several minorities in Czechoslovakia. The armed conflict in Moldova was sparked by the fears of the Russian-speaking population which suddenly found itself a minority in a foreign state that was seemingly bent on discrimination against it-a pattern that threatens to recur throughout the former Soviet Union. The turmoil resulting from these efforts by ethnic minorities to carve out their own mini-states suggests that the worldwide tendency to stress collective interests over individual rights can be a dangerous recipe for the violent explosion of ethnic grievances. Individual freedom may be less secure amid a multitude of self-determination claims than in conglomerate, pluralist states that respect such basic liberties as the right to practice one's religion, speak one's language, andpursue one's culture.
Restrictions on Civil Society
Communal violence finds particularly fertile ground where civil society was never permitted to develop or has been battered by other human rights violations. A society with a vigorous free press and a vibrant range of independent associations is better able to adapt peacefully to the political and economic exigencies that often lead to ethnic strife, and to resist the nationalist appeals that might be offered as quick fixes. But the atomized society that is often left in the wake of an abusive government lacks the flexibility and innovation needed to respond to such challenges without fissuring. A nation without a healthy civil society becomes a breeding ground for the virus of intolerance and ethnic animosity.
It thus is not accidental that many of the most severe outbreaks of ethnic violence can be found in countries that have suffered dictatorial rule. Somalia, Liberia, Iraq, Sudan, Burma and former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union have in common a civil society that is stunted after years of authoritarian government. A similar breed of intolerance in the form of religious extremism has flourished in countries such as Algeria and Egypt, where years of tight governmental control have foreclosed alternative avenues for the expression of discontent.
The Cloudy Dawn of Democracy
It is not only communal violence that clouds what was to have been the post-Cold War dawn of democracy. More traditional political stratagems also intrude. Abusive leaders intent on retaining power have used various ploys, including human rights abuse, to limit the political risks attendant on sending voters to the polls. Others have simply ignored electoral results, or dispensed with elections altogether, in the name of protecting democracy. Their manipulation is facilitated by a negligence on the part of many proponents of democracy in identifying its essential elements-not only elections but also respect for individual rights and the rule of law.
Fortunately, the trend is not all negative. Welcome developments in 1992 included the peaceful presidential transitions in Guyana and the Philippines and the return to elected government in Thailand. But the year was more noteworthy for the persistent determination of dictators to manipulate the concept of democracy than any sign that they sought to respect its spirit.
Governmental leaders used a range of devices to avoid the unfiltered judgment of the voters:
· The Syrian-backed government of President Elias el-Hrawi in Lebanon detained opponents, restricted and closed press outlets, banned over 130 private associations, and rushed to hold elections before occupying Syrian troops were redeployed.
· The Kuwaiti government allowed parliamentary elections, but the significance of the opposition's surprising victory was lessened by the continuing ban on women voting, an extremely limited malesuffrage, and the Emir's insistence on naming members of the royal family to all key ministries.
· President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya finally promised multiparty elections but is intent on controlling them by maintaining restrictions on the opposition's ability to organize and campaign.
· The Arab-Berber government of Mauritania used fraud and violence to disenfranchise large numbers of blacks.
Some political leaders displayed open contempt for electoral results. President Alberto Fujimori of Peru defended his self-coup and assumption of extraordinary powers by asserting the need to overcome the corruption and incompetence that he said impeded the fight against drug trafficking and the vicious Shining Path insurgency. Ironically, the biggest blow against the Shining Path-the capture of its leader Abimael Guzmán-was the result of ordinary detective work. Meanwhile, in his readiness to discard the constitutional order, Fujimori handed the insurgents a tremendous gift by undercutting the long-term legitimacy of the state.
A similar sequence unfolded in Algeria, where the military defended its annulment of parliamentary elections won by the Islamic Salvation Front by claiming that it was protecting democracy and human rights from intolerant zealots. But the government belied its assertion when it sent thousands of suspected Islamists to remote desert camps without charge or trial, and refused to set a timetable for resuming the democratic process. Elsewhere:
· The Haitian military junta, having ousted freely elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide purportedly because of his incitement of mob violence, continued to use detention, beatings and murder to prevent calls for his return.
· The military junta in Burma also continued to deny the results of the 1990 opposition electoral victory, and began plans for a national convention in January 1993 designed to consolidate the military's power.
· The unita rebels in Angola resorted to violence rather than accept a loss at the ballot box.
· Elements of the Venezuelan military twice attempted to overthrow what had been one of Latin America's most stable democracies.
Some countries did not bother with the charade of an aborted or rigged election:
· The Saudi Arabian government announced with great fanfare a series of political reforms, but a reading of the fine print revealed that the reforms in fact codified royal authoritarianism, and left Saudi citizens with fewer civil and political rights than they had in 1926.
· Syrian President Hafez al-Asad had promised wider political participation but instead began his fourth consecutive seven-year term after a referendum in which he said 99.98 percent of the voters approved continuation of his reign.
· China continued to detain thousands of pro-democracy activists, not only from the 1989 democracy movement but also from as far back as the Democracy Wall movement of the late 1970s. They endured horrendous prison conditions and torture, despite a Chinese government "white paper" proclaiming the many legal protections that they supposedly enjoy.
Accountability for Past Gross Abuses
A key measure of a country's evolution toward democracy is its capacity to hold past gross abusers of human rights accountable for their misdeeds. The worldwide quest for accountability had several notable advances in 1992, but there were setbacks as well.
Progress was particularly significant in El Salvador under the U.N.-sponsored peace process. A "Truth Commission," charged with investigating serious abuses since 1980, added to pressures on the government to allow exhumations of the remains of the victims of the 1981 El Mozote massacre in which an estimated 794 civilians were killed by the Salvadoran army. Initial results confirm contemporaneous press reports of the massacre that the U.S. government vehemently denied at the time. A parallel "Ad Hoc Commission" reportedly recommended purging the army of over 100 officers for their involvement in violent abuses, including the Minister and Deputy Minister of Defense. Despite resistance from the army, President Alfredo Cristiani reportedly is acting on the recommendations.
· The U.N. Security Council took a significant step toward constructing an international system of accountability for gross abuses when it established an expert commission to collect evidence of war crimes in former Yugoslavia, although it stopped short of creating an international tribunal to try the perpetrators of those crimes.
· Russia began to open KGB files and acknowledge past abuses, such as the massacre of 20,000 Polish officers in Katyn forest during World War II, although criminal prosecutions have yet to follow.
· In a rare exception to the impunity from criminal prosecution that has prevailed for Chilean gross abusers, the trial began in Chile of retired secret police chief General Manuel Contreras for the murder in Washington of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt.
· Four high-ranking police officials in Paraguay were convicted and sentenced to 25-year prison terms for their torture and murder of a political detainee under the former military dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner.
· Trials also began of Erich Honecker and other former senior East German officials for ordering the shootings of Germans fleeing tothe West, although the proceedings progressed slowly because of the defendants' poor health.
Compared to the civilian governments that emerged in Latin America in the 1980s, the governments of Eastern Europe had a golden opportunity to hold former officials responsible for gross abuses of the past. In Latin America, new civilian governments usually had to contend with still-powerful militaries that were intent on avoiding prosecution for their gross abuses. By contrast, the revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe so transformed the balance of power that former communists were able to offer little resistance to those who sought accountability for their crimes.
But the sheer number believed to be responsible for these crimes has presented a new set of problems. Most notably in Czechoslovakia and Germany, but also in Bulgaria and Poland, the effort to redress these crimes has swept so broadly that people are being caught up in the "lustration," or decommunization, effort simply because of past associations, without reliable proof linking them to a particular crime, or an opportunity to defend themselves before an impartial tribunal. Rather than affirming the rule of law as a means of moving beyond the abusive past, the new governments of Eastern Europe have allowed these serious due process deficiencies to perpetuate official arbitrariness.
Elsewhere, few suffered penal consequences for the commission of violent abuses. In some countries, the rule of impunity was best illustrated by the exceptional prosecution.
· Indonesia held the first-ever courts-martial of military personnel accused of criminal offenses in a political case-the November 1991 massacre of at least 75 unarmed demonstrators in East Timor. But none of the defendants was at the scene when the shooting began (thus shedding no light on who ordered the killing) and the sentences were ludicrously lenient (a maximum of 18 months in prison, compared to life imprisonment for the alleged mastermind of the demonstration).
· In Peru, members of the military have been convicted of human rights offenses in only two cases in the last 12 years. One of the convicted defendants was never imprisoned following his conviction and continued to receive regular promotions despite his involvement in the murder, torture and rape of 69 peasants in 1985.
· The Indian government cited the conviction of two army captains in Kashmir for the rape of a Canadian tourist as evidence of its commitment to human rights, but no other member of the security forces has been prosecuted in hundreds of cases of abuse, including murder, torture, rape and disappearance, and even the two captains have yet to begin serving their sentences.
Other countries granted formal or de facto amnesties for violent abusers.
· The Thai military, before returning power to an elected government, enacted an amnesty to protect those who ordered troopsto fire on peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok, killing at least 52. A constitutional tribunal has upheld the amnesty.
· In South Africa, an amnesty pushed through by F.W. DeKlerk's Presidential Council, after an unprecedented rejection by the Indian house of the tricameral parliament, will allow pardons for past abuses with no public disclosure of what is being forgiven.
· The Kuwaiti government, without even bothering to enact a formal amnesty, has said that it has no intention of prosecuting those responsible for torturing thousands of suspected Iraqi sympathizers, or for the ongoing abuse of hundreds of Asian maids, although it insists on the continued detention of some 120 alleged collaborators with the Iraqi occupiers who were convicted after trials wholly lacking in due process. The government has also made no apparent effort to exhume mass graves of those killed by Kuwaiti forces following liberation from Iraqi occupation.
The Right to Monitor
An important measure of any country's respect for human rights is its willingness to allow others to monitor its compliance with international standards. While the human rights movement continues to gain acceptance, some governments in 1992 still sought to shield their abuses from public scrutiny by attacking those who document and publicize them. Seven human rights monitors were murdered in 1992.
Colombia continued to be among the most dangerous places to monitor human rights, as a secretary and a security guard for the Regional Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Barrancabermeja were murdered. In India, a human rights monitor died in custody of probable torture, and many others suffered threats, beatings and illegal detentions by security forces. In Turkey, security forces raided several branches of the Human Rights Association (hra), four hra members were on a death list of 28, and one hra board member was killed by unidentified assailants. In the Dominican Republic, a human rights activist was killed by police shooting indiscriminately into a crowd of demonstrators.
Rebel groups are known to have been responsible for the killing of two human rights advocates. In Egypt, a prominent writer and outspoken defender of minority rights who had criticized radical Islamists was assassinated by members of an extremist group. In Peru, a women's rights activist who had stood up to the Shining Path insurgency was executed by one of its assassination squads.
Some governments used detention to silence human rights critics.
· In Syria, 40 members and supporters of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedom and Human Rights were detained in 1992, fourteen of whom were sentenced by the State Security Court to prison terms of between three and ten years of hard labor.
· In Cuba, at least 50 monitors and democracy advocates are serving prison terms of up to ten years for their peacefulactivities. Scores of others have been subjected to violent assault by state-organized mobs in supposedly spontaneous "acts of repudiation."
· In Vietnam, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que is serving a 20-year prison term for criticizing the government's human rights practices.
As many governments forsake these crude methods to silence the human rights movement, they have developed more subtle techniques.
· The Peruvian government has unfairly denounced human rights workers as supporters of the Shining Path insurgency-thus subjecting them to the risk of violent retaliation by right-wing forces-even though these activists regularly criticize abuses by the rebel group. The government has also sought to imprison human rights activists under a vague anti-terrorist decree. In one illustrative case, an attorney was charged for working with Americas Watch and litigating before the Organization of American States (oas) Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
· The Salvadoran government tried to block an Argentine legal advisor from joining the U.N. monitoring effort, apparently because he had provided legal assistance in the prosecution of those accused of the 1989 murder of six Jesuit priests in San Salvador.
· The Sudanese government, having banned the Sudan Human Rights Organization and the Sudan Bar Association, continued to proffer officially controlled clones by the same names in their place.
Some countries have been particularly disingenuous in their approach to human rights monitoring.
· The Nigerian government sponsored an international seminar on human rights in Lagos but did not invite domestic groups and warned them not to criticize the government while the seminar was under way.
· The Mexican government's own National Human Rights Commission has undertaken important investigations, but its recommendations of prosecution are routinely ignored or unfulfilled.
· The governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean)-particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore-have acknowledged the universality of human rights principles, but argue that each government should be free to determine on its own how those principles are implemented.
· As the oas Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presses Latin American governments to bring to justice gross violators of human rights, many of those governments found it convenient to lash out in turn at the Commission.
U.N. Human Rights Policy
The end of the Cold War opened dramatic possibilities for theU.N. to promote human rights. Previously, human rights matters tended to be relegated to specially designated U.N. bodies in Geneva, with little effect. The highly politicized, protect-your-own voting patterns of participating states undermined much of the U.N.'s moral authority. And the substantial irrelevance of proceedings in Geneva for the foreign policies of the major powers meant that U.N. human rights resolutions had little practical clout.
Today, as Cold War divisions melt and the agreement of all major powers becomes feasible, the U.N. is able increasingly to undertake large-scale operations-for peacekeeping, protection or the provision of humanitarian aid-that can have a profound affect on human rights. Yet the relationship of these operations to the U.N.'s stated commitment to uphold human rights is being worked out only haphazardly. The U.N. has tended to downplay the promotion of human rights in favor of other operational goals, without appreciating the significant extent to which forceful human rights advocacy can facilitate achievement of these goals.
In the El Salvador peace process-the most successful effort to date to integrate human rights concerns into U.N. operations-the parties to the negotiations and the U.N. mediators have understood that any successful peace accord would need to give high priority to the protection of human rights. Yet U.N. administrators have tended to temper or avoid criticism of human rights violators in an effort to paper over potential points of conflict. This stress on immediate reconciliation is often short-sighted in that it neglects the importance of establishing the conditions of respect for human rights and the rule of law that will give antagonists the confidence to resolve future differences without resort to violence.
Similar failings can be found in Cambodia, where the U.N. has been myopically fixated on holding to the schedule for May 1993 elections, but has largely ignored the need to build institutions that can secure the rule of law and rectify human rights abuses. Nor has the U.N. itself been an effective substitute for governmental safeguards of human rights. The Khmer Rouge, while declining to participate in the peace process or the election, has campaigned for popular support through a series of ruthless attacks and racist invective against ethnic Vietnamese civilians in the country. The U.N. responded by criminalizing racist slurs and common epithets-steps that do little to address the escalating violence and set a poor precedent for free expression under the next Cambodian government.
A hesitancy to stress human rights concerns has also been apparent in U.N. operations in Iraq, Somalia and former Yugoslavia. While the creation of a safe haven in northern Iraq has temporarily stopped Baghdad's slaughter of the Kurds, a no-fly zone has been ineffective in the primarily Shi'a south, where Iraqi troops continue to engage in indiscriminate shelling, arbitrary detention and reported large-scale executions with impunity. Yet unlike its insistence that arms monitors have unimpeded access to Iraq, the U.N. did not take up the plea of its special rapporteur, Max van der Stohl, that U.N. human rights monitors be stationed throughout the country. So long as the Arab victims of this abuse do notcreate a refugee crisis like their Kurdish compatriots to the north, the U.N. appears unwilling to act effectively to protect them. The relationship between Baghdad's human rights violations at home and its long-term threat to international security seems not to be grasped.
In former Yugoslavia, the U.N. helped to keep the peace in Croatia but allowed "ethnic cleansing" and other abuses to continue in areas under U.N. supervision. When the war spread to Bosnia-Hercegovina, the U.N. sought to deliver humanitarian aid to those trapped by the war, but many aid convoys were attacked, hijacked or blocked by the warring parties. U.N. threats to use force to protect the convoys were rarely realized. Nor were effective steps taken to stop the slaughter, torture and forcible displacement of ongoing "ethnic cleansing." A so-far unenforced no-fly zone, a permeable embargo, and a commission to investigate war crimes which fell short of a tribunal to try them, were all the U.N. has been able to muster to end genocidal practices. The U.N. did periodically denounce violations of the laws of war, but the condemnations were largely sapped of force by the reluctance of U.N. representatives to identify perpetrators. This reticence derived from a desire to maintain strict neutrality for fear of jeopardizing stalled negotiations. The resulting downgrading of efforts to promote human rights made it appear that the U.N. aspired to no more than "well-fed dead."
Despite aspirations today to a greater preventive role, the U.N. in 1991 abandoned Somalia at a point when the downward spiral of armed conflict and famine might still have been checked. The U.N. returned in fits and starts in 1992, but its stress on negotiating with the warring factions to allow delivery of aid again kept it from the strong action needed to stop the ongoing, rampant abuse that underlay the humanitarian crisis. The U.N. is now embarking on a U.S.-proposed military intervention to protect the delivery of relief. But earlier U.N. attention to persistent violence might have avoided the need for such drastic measures.
The complex disasters confronting the U.N. defy simple solutions. But the pattern that emerged in 1992 as U.N. field operations expanded suggests that the institution undervalues human rights concerns. Finding a way to incorporate a more prominent role for human rights in these endeavors is important not only in its own right but also as a step toward addressing the causes of these disasters and laying the groundwork for their solution.
U.S. Human Rights Policy
The Bush administration during its four years has avoided the Reagan administration's overt hostility to human rights, but it has never developed its own positive vision of the importance of human rights in world affairs. The result was initiatives on particular countries that were often quite useful, but a lack of the coherent and consistent policy that is needed to promote human rights most effectively.
This failure of vision at times left the administration foundering in the sea-change caused by the end of the Cold War. The complex challenges to human rights in a multipolar world cried out for guidance, but they were often met in Washington with hesitationand inaction. Attaching no consistent premium to human rights, the administration lacked the vision to perceive novel threats and the creativity to fashion new defenses. Human rights in many countries thus remained in jeopardy.
The challenge facing the Clinton administration in the realm of human rights is to articulate a vision that allows the promotion of human rights to reassume a central role in U.S. foreign policy. To move beyond the Cold War paradigm of the Reagan administration and the frequent disarray of the Bush administration, the Clinton administration will need to discern the violations of human rights that underlie many of the world's most pressing problems, and to provide leadership in building an international order with a central place for human rights.
Over its four years, the Bush administration departed from the disastrous policies of its predecessor in several important respects. In El Salvador, prodded by Congress, it lent its support to a negotiated settlement of the country's decade-long civil war. In Nicaragua, it halted U.S. assistance to the abusive contra guerrillas. In South Africa, it ended "constructive engagement" and joined international efforts to press for an end to apartheid. Elsewhere in Africa, it lent considerable weight to negotiated resolutions of bloody armed conflicts in Angola and Mozambique. There were also a number of useful undertakings in 1992:
· Forthright public criticism by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen and U.S. Ambassador Smith Hempstone, coupled with a cutoff of all but development aid, put strong pressure on the Kenyan government to enact political reforms.
· The Bush administration's initial reaction to Peruvian President Fujimori's self-coup was forceful. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Bernard Aronson, in Lima at the time, cancelled his governmental meetings and made a point of visiting members of the nongovernmental human rights community before departing. Secretary of State James Baker denounced the coup as "tragic" and told the oas, "You cannot destroy democracy in order to save it." The administration also cut off most aid and froze commercial military sales. Unfortunately, various actions weakened this firm message of disapproval as the year progressed.
· In Guatemala, the administration repeatedly defended human rights monitors against governmental attacks. U.S. Ambassador Thomas Stroock publicly came to their defense on several occasions. And when trumped-up criminal charges were filed against one of Guatemala's leading human rights activists, Secretary Aronson telephoned Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano to protest.
· After Thai troops opened fired on pro-democracy demonstrators in Bangkok, the Bush administration ended joint U.S.-Thai military exercises, publicly condemned the loss of life, and met with Thai leaders to urge restraint and a peaceful political solution. However, when elected civilian government returned in Thailand, the administration relaxed sanctions without insisting that those who ordered these murders be brought to justice.
· The administration continued to enforce a safe haven in northern Iraq that has protected the Kurds from once again enduring Baghdad's genocidal crimes.
Yet the lack of an overarching human rights policy has weakened the precedential impact of these positive initiatives and hampered administration efforts to grapple with the many new challenges to human rights of the past year.
For example, the administration showed itself most at sea in addressing the worldwide outbreak of communal conflict. The principal exception was in Kenya, where the State Department demonstrated an awareness of the government's promotion of ethnic strife to fend off calls for multiparty elections. With characteristic candor, Ambassador Hempstone publicly observed: "Self-fulfilling prophesies of chaos, bloodshed and tribal warfare are not useful. The government because it is the government has the primary responsibility of restoring order and maintaining security." More often, however, the administration remained apparently oblivious to the critical role that human rights violations can play in transforming communal tension into communal conflict, and often missed opportunities to condemn ethnic discrimination and violence at its early stages.
Perhaps the most glaring oversight was Turkey, where the administration offered no public criticism of attacks on Kurdish villagers by Turkish security forces, or of the murder of journalists and community leaders in the Kurdish southeast. State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler went so far as to congratulate Turkey on its "use of restraint" when Turkish security forces killed at least 91 demonstrators during the Kurdish New Year. Spokesman Richard Boucher said that the State Department "supported the efforts the Turkish government is making to ensure the cultural and political rights of all Turkish citizens, including those of Kurdish origin," ignoring continuing restrictions on the use of the Kurdish language in courts, schools and official settings, and ongoing harassment of Kurds who attempt to express their ethnic identity.
Other examples abound of the administration's public paralysis in confronting the problem of communal violence.
· The administration voiced little concern as right-wing violence against foreigners raged in Germany. Worse, only two weeks after the police sat by as right-wing skinheads attacked 150 Vietnamese workers trapped in a burning building, the State Department praised the police for working to prevent such attacks.
· The administration opened embassies in all of the new states of the former Soviet Union, but as these states threatened to become engulfed in ethnic violence, the State Department assigned only one foreign service officer to the full-time monitoring of human rights-a second secretary in the U.S. embassy in Russia.
· The administration only belatedly acknowledged mounting evidenceof government complicity in some of the violence in South Africa, and even then did so obliquely.
The administration was on no firmer ground once clan or ethnic tension exploded into full-scale warfare, as it did in Somalia and former Yugoslavia. In each case, it took months before the disasters received the high-level attention they deserved. Until then, the administration reinforced the U.N.'s short-sighted strategy by insisting on viewing these conflicts largely as humanitarian emergencies, without attending to the human rights violations at their core.
A Narrow Vision of Democracy
The effects of the narrow interpretation of democracy favored by the Bush and Reagan administrations for most of the past 12 years became particularly apparent in 1992. The vision of democracy as little more than elections had long been manifest in Latin America, where these administrations actively supported elected governments that continued to tolerate and defend violent military abuses. More recently, the cost of this undue deference to elected leaders has risen as the victors of several elections themselves proceeded openly to flout human rights standards. Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and Zviad Gamsakhurdia of Georgia are examples of this new breed of elected despot. A long tradition of promoting democracy in its fullest dimension-not only free and fair elections but also respect for the rights of minorities and the rule of law-would have given the Bush administration surer footing in addressing this form of abusive majoritarianism. Instead, hesitancy and inconsistency have been the order of the day.
The lack of a more complete conception of democracy made the administration's response to Algeria's cancellation of the Islamist-won parliamentary elections seem particularly arbitrary. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Edward Djerejian decried the "one person, one vote, one time" formula that he attributed to Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front, as if unaware that the ruling National Liberation Front's 30-year record on national elections could be summed up as "no vote, no way, never." Nor did the administration publicly protest when the Algerian military sent thousands of suspected Islamist activists to remote desert camps without charge or trial, often after torture. What emerged was a not a principled defense of democratic values but a preoccupation with defeating Islamic fundamentalism.
In other countries, the administration's response to political Islam suffered from a similar lack of principle.
· The administration started publicly criticizing restrictions on speech and association during Lebanon's extended electoral process only after Iranian-supported Hezbollah and its supporters emerged with the largest bloc in parliament.
· It offered no public criticism of incommunicado detention and routine torture of suspected Islamist extremists in Egypt.
· It registered no public reaction to the reported use of torture and coerced confessions at a mass trial of Islamists in Tunisia.
Even when pro-Western governments adopted restrictive legislation in an effort to appease Islamist extremists-such as Hudood ordinances in Pakistan that discriminate against women-the
administration eschewed public criticism.
The loss of the steady coordinates of the Cold War could be seen in the administration's inconsistent views on democracy elsewhere as well. Secretary Baker, in discussing the former Soviet Union, repeatedly linked the concepts of "building democracy" and "building free markets," as if promoting a capitalist economy was all that was needed to bring about a democratic system. The same belief guided U.S. policy toward China, where the administration was willing to threaten trade sanctions to advance U.S. business interests, but stuck to its policy of "engagement, rather than confrontation" when it came to political reforms or the release of detained pro-democracy activists.
Administration officials cited cultural differences in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to explain their unwillingness to press harder for democratic reform. The State Department praised political reforms in Saudi Arabia as "very important steps" when in fact they expanded royal authority and outlawed elections as Western imports not suitable for Saudi citizens. U.S. Ambassador Edward Ghnem praised October elections in Kuwait as "extremely good at establishing at a grassroots level the idea of democracy" even though all women and most men had been denied the right to vote.
Other elected governments avoided U.S. criticism because their serious human rights violations lacked a traditional political motive. For example, both President Bush and Defense Secretary Richard Cheney visited Brazil without issuing any public protest over the huge number of summary executions by death squads and the police. By any objective measure these killings rank among the most serious abuses in Latin America, but because the victims are homeless children and common criminal suspects rather than dissenters, the administration seems not to have registered these murders as human rights offenses. Nor, for apparently similar reasons, has the administration protested the Brazilian courts' continued acceptance of the "legitimate defense of honor" to acquit men who kill their allegedly unfaithful wives or lovers.
The effects of the narrow vision of democracy that has reigned in the White House for much of the last 12 years were also highlighted in 1992 by the behavior of insurgent groups that had once received U.S. backing. When the regime of Afghan President Najibullah fell to the mujahidin, the State Department welcomed the victory after "a long and bitter struggle for self-determination which won admiration and support from around the world." But after years of pressing for this victory against communism, the U.S. government lost interest in Afghanistan as competition among abusive mujahidin factions threatens to lead the country toward a humanitarian crisis. unita, the Angolan insurgency, also proved an embarrassment in 1992 when it resorted to violence rather than accept its defeat in elections that international observers characterized as free and fair, although the State Departmentcalled on it to abide by the election results.
Accountability for Past Abuses
The Bush administration continued in 1992 its refusal to press newly elected governments to prosecute those responsible for past gross abuses. This eagerness to let bygones be bygones hobbled efforts to build new democracies, since the atmosphere remained poisoned by the wounds of the victims and their families, and a precedent of impunity was left intact for those who might contemplate future resort to human rights abuse.
· The administration compromised the potential precedent of accountability being set in El Salvador by refusing to release important information from its files on human rights abuses by the Salvadoran military.
· The administration blamed ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of Haiti for the collapse of a political accord once he interpreted it, fairly, to allow prosecution of those military officials responsible for the massacre of Haitians following the September 1991 coup.
· The administration remained publicly silent about the South African government's effort to amnesty its security forces for past abuses, much as it and the Reagan administration had silently countenanced such amnesties by Latin American dictatorships as they handed over power to elected civilian governments.
· The administration dropped sanctions against the Thai military following the return to elected civilian government, even though no one had been prosecuted for the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators and key questions remained unanswered about the military's role.
· The administration opposed sanctions on the Indonesian military, ultimately enacted by Congress, which are designed to press for prosecution of those responsible for the November 1991 massacre in East Timor.
· The administration remained publicly silent on the decommunization process in Eastern Europe, neither endorsing the goal of accountability nor expressing concern over the human rights compromises that have afflicted the process.
Human Rights in the United States
The administration's lack of concern with establishing accountability for human rights violations was also apparent in its approach toward human rights violations in the United States. U.S. Border Patrol agents along the Mexican border abuse undocumented migrants with impunity because federal law enforcement officials routinely cover up and defend the most egregious conduct. Abuse by local police officers, such as the brutal beating of Rodney King, is also facilitated by a federal government that, despite its duty under international law and the U.S. constitution to set standardsfor police conduct, treats police violence as a "local issue" with which it need be little concerned.
The administration took the positive step of ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights but refused to make it part of U.S. domestic law or to grant U.S. citizens the right to bring complaints to the U.N. body of experts charged with enforcing the treaty. Similarly, in a case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, the administration asserted a narrow reading of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to oppose efforts by a U.S. citizen to obtain monetary damages for his torture and arbitrary detention by Saudi officials. The administration also sought to block legislation that would have clarified the right to obtain such redress.
The administration flouted one of the cardinal doctrines of international law-the principle of nonrefoulement-when it began forcibly repatriating Haitian boat people intercepted at sea without screening them to exempt those who risk political persecution. It also urged the U.S. Supreme Court, successfully, to uphold the kidnapping by U.S. government agents of a criminal suspect from Mexican soil without Mexico's consent. What emerges is a cynical attitude toward international law-a view that it applies to others but not to ourselves-which does immeasurable damage to the human rights cause.
While the threatened or actual withholding of aid can be one of the most powerful tools to promote human rights, the administration continued to distribute foreign assistance to a range of governments that commit serious abuses. Most notable were the three largest recipients of U.S. aid: Israel, Egypt and Turkey. None was publicly told by the administration that it risked cuts in aid if it continued to violate human rights (although the administration did condition loan guarantees to Israel on the related question of settlements in the occupied territories). Nor did the administration offer a public explanation of the "extraordinary circumstances" that compel ongoing aid despite persistent abuses. The administration successfully lobbied to remove human rights conditions on aid to Colombia and Peru, while seeking unsuccessfully to send aid to a Salvadoran military that remains unpurged of those responsible for systematic violent abuse over the past 12 years.
Multilateral Action to Promote Human Rights
One product of an increasingly multipolar world is the growing importance of enlisting other major powers in efforts to promote human rights. During the Cold War, a firm U.S. stance on a human rights issue, particularly concerning an ally, was often enough to effect change. Today, however, as several important centers of power emerge, the U.S. voice on human rights is more effective if joined by other concerned governments. The potential U.S. effect on human rights-even as a lone voice-remains exceedingly powerful, so a lack of multilateral support should never be an excuse for inaction. But there are significant advantages to enlisting other major powers.
Kenya and Malawi provide two recent examples of the effective exertion of multilateral pressure. In each case, after a World Bank-convened conference of donors conditioned aid on democratic reform, the target government began tentative moves toward multiparty elections. Other recent efforts by the Bush administration to enlist multilateral support occurred at donors meetings on Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Yet the redress of human rights violations in other countries would benefit from a multilateral approach:
· The U.N.-sponsored peace process in Cambodia is in jeopardy because of a recalcitrant Khmer Rouge which receives critical economic support through its lucrative trade with Thai military and business leaders.
· The significance of the U.S. refusal to support some World Bank loans to China because of continuing repression was undercut by the administration's failure to encourage other economic powers to adopt a similar stance. China in 1992 thus received more loans from the World Bank than any other country.
· Despite international sanctions, the miliary junta in Burma continues to be armed by China and kept afloat by trade with China, Thailand and others.
In several cases the failure of a multilateral effort lies as much in Brussels or Tokyo as in Washington. While the European Community now promises to consider human rights in its trade and aid agreements, it has cited technicalities in refusing to join the oas-sponsored embargo of Haiti, rendering the embargo a largely ineffective tool. Although Japan is ostensibly committed to use its extensive foreign aid to promote human rights and democratization-and restricted aid to Kenya, Malawi and Burma-it has said it prefers a "soft approach" (quiet diplomacy) to the "hard approach" it attributes to the United States and others. Thus in 1992, despite the lack of human rights progress in China, it gave China $1.1 billion in aid and received Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin in Tokyo.
The Clinton Administration
As Bill Clinton prepares to assume office, he will find guidance mainly by counterexample from the Bush administration. The systematic downgrading of human rights that characterized the Bush years has had its cost in a foreign policy that was often reactive, uninspiring and analytically handicapped. In the name of pragmatism, the Bush administration frequently ignored the very real consequences of the human rights ideal. To reintroduce human rights as a central element of U.S. foreign policy, and to reap its potential power in preventing and curtailing the violence and devastation that has become so prevalent, is a critical task facing the Clinton administration.
In pursuit of this goal, the new administration soon after taking office should articulate the human rights principles that will guide its foreign policy. It should make clear that it:
· understands that ethnic violence is far more than the unleashing of latent animosities, and intends to identify and condemn governmental actions that aggravate ethnic tensions, so that discriminatory and incendiary conduct is stopped before violent conflict breaks out;
· does not equate democracy with the mere holding of periodic elections, but measures all governments, including elected ones, by uniform indicators of respect for human rights, including respect for the rights of minorities, the strength of curbs on arbitrary violence, the health of civil society, and the vitality of the rule of law;
· will not close its eyes to the abuses of the past, but recognizes that holding perpetrators of gross abuses accountable for their actions is necessary both as a matter of respect for the victims and as a foundation for democracy;
· will assess respect for human rights not only with regard to traditional political violations but also by reference to abuses against women, minorities and common criminal suspects;
· vows to introduce an even-handedness into U.S. human rights policy by publicly condemning gross violations, whether the author is friend or foe;
· intends to abide by U.S. law prohibiting aid to governments that consistently commit gross violations of human rights, and to use that prohibition to pressure all aid recipients to halt gross abuses;
· promises to enlist multilateral support for the promotion of human rights, without allowing a lack of multilateral consensus to serve as an excuse for U.S. inaction;
· understands that respect for human rights is a critical component of any peace accord, be it those negotiated by the U.N., such as in El Salvador and Cambodia, or those principally orchestrated by the United States, such as the Arab-Israeli peace talks;
· places a high priority on ending human rights and humanitarian disasters, and will press the U.N. and other multilateral bodies to take effective action to stop them; and
· will apply human rights standards at home as well as abroad, including by ending summary forced repatriation of Haitian boat people, aggressively working to end abuse by federal and local law enforcement agents, and calling for legislation that makes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights a part of U.S. law, with a right of individual recourse to the U.N. Human Rights Committee.
The Work of Human Rights Watch
The human rights disasters of 1992 consumed vast quantities of our resources. With so many lives in the balance, we felt compelled to devote extraordinary energies to the war in former Yugoslavia and the conflict and famine in Somalia. In each case, we were at the forefront of efforts both to convey the enormity of the disaster in progress and to rally international support for an effective response. We also worked to alert the world to the possibility of impending disasters in Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, Mozambique and Sudan.
Given the role that communal violence plays in most of these actual and potential disasters, we saw as a major priority the identification of the causes of such conflict. In Burma, Germany, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and the former Soviet Union, among other places, we sought to highlight the role that governmental policies of discrimination and abuse can play in exacerbating tensions and fomenting violence. When discrimination took the form of disputes over citizenship-an area where international legal guarantees are particularly weak-we sought to expand protection, in such places as the Baltic states, Burma, the Dominican Republic and Kuwait.
In both the disasters and the lesser communal conflicts, we profited from a relatively broad mandate to promote civil and political rights that allows us to address not only traditional prisoner concerns but also abuses committed in the context of armed conflict. International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, provides a well established legal framework to confront such abuses that fall outside the scope of traditional human rights law, such as indiscriminate shelling and attacks on civilian structures. The laws of war, which address all parties to an armed conflict, also permit us to deal with abuses by rebel militias that are not embraced by human rights standards which apply only to governments. Since abuses of this sort can lead to extreme suffering, we were able to direct our work to the matters of greatest concern to the actual and potential victims.
Despite the enormity of the abuses often associated with armed conflict, we resisted allowing them to keep us from our work on countries where less dire circumstances allowed the possibility of greater hope and progress. As the number of elected governments grew, we worked to ensure that they fulfilled the promise of democracy by creating the conditions of security, freedom and the rule of law that allow civil society to flourish. We paid particular attention to governments' response to such challenges as drug trafficking and religious extremism, which often lead to a compromise of democratic values and violations of human rights.
As we have for many years, we pressed to hold accountable those who are responsible for past abuses, both because we feel a duty to the victims and because we believe that such accountability provides the most secure foundation for future respect for human rights. The decommunization process in Eastern Europe put a new twist on the issue, since the problem we confronted was not so much resistance to accountability by still-powerful forces as it was an overzealous and unchecked quest for revenge and an inadequate grasp of or refusal to respect due process principles. We also undertook a research project of unprecedented size in northern Iraq, todocument the Iraqi government's Anfal campaign of systematic slaughter against the Kurds. Because in our view this 1988 campaign is the clearest case of genocide since World War II, we hope ultimately to trigger international criminal prosecution and trial of the Iraqi government and its leading figures for these horrendous crimes. As 1992 draws to an end and the world continues to grapple with how to end the "ethnic cleansing" in former Yugoslavia, we are contemplating a similar undertaking with respect to war crimes there.
We also kept up monitoring and pressure on such stalwart violators as China, Cuba, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. Our experience with such seemingly unshakable regimes as the former Soviet Union reconfirms our belief that persistent pressure on human rights violators can pay off even in the case of apparently intractable governments.
We continued in our effort to bolster human rights advocacy in the portions of the civil and political rights agenda that tend to be neglected. Our thematic projects on prisoners' rights and women's rights contributed to this effort in a range of countries. We played a similar role as we continued our work on rural violence and police abuse against common criminal suspects.
As the U.N. influence on human rights grew dramatically with its expanded involvement in peace settlements, relief operations and protective undertakings, our attention to the U.N. also increased. With occasional exceptions, we historically have neglected the U.N. human rights machinery in Geneva because we felt that others were at work there, and that Human Rights Watch could have a more significant impact with our limited resources if we pursued alternative avenues. But as the U.N. becomes the key medium for the international community to address human rights matters, we have followed and contributed to its actions more carefully.
The work with the U.N. has forced us to address such conceptual issues as the relationship of human rights to peace, famine and ethnic conflict. The centrality of these complex issues to the U.N.'s most important undertakings presents an enormous challenge to the human rights movement but also offers unprecedented opportunities for influence.
We also contributed to the debate initiated by a series of governments that sought to assert cultural differences or development needs as an excuse to avoid human rights scrutiny. In reports that we submitted to two international conferences-the environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro and the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Jakarta-we sought to demonstrate that respect for civil and political rights is both compatible with and essential for environmental protection, sustainable development and economic justice.
We continued to devote substantial energy to shaping U.S. foreign policy, since we believe that Washington has tremendous potential to use its influence to promote respect for human rights. Increasingly, however, Washington's influence on human rights matters is matched by Tokyo's and Brussels's, so we spent more time trying to affect the human rights policies of the Japanese government and the European Community. Both have vowed to use their foreign aid to promote human rights, but each shows the sametemptations often exhibited in Washington to allow other interests to get in the way. As in Washington, we believe that persistent pressure will bring us the greatest opportunity to make these vows a reality. We hope to use similar techniques to introduce human rights concerns through the "good governance" criterion used by the World Bank. And our new arms project will allow us to begin influencing human rights practices through pressure to curtail the transfer of arms to abusive governments.
Finally, we continued to expand our work on the United States, both by addressing human rights violations for which our investigative and reporting methodology could make a significant contribution, and by filing legal briefs in cases addressing civil and political rights issues in which our expertise on international standards or practices could shed useful light. The many governments that cited the acquittals in the Rodney King beating case and the subsequent riots in Los Angeles to deflect criticism of their own human rights practices demonstrated to us once again that respect for human rights in the United States is important not only in its own right but also if the U.S. government is to play an effective role in promoting human rights worldwide.
What follows is a review of human rights in 53 countries, plus combined chapters on the countries that now make up former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. The report covers 1992, through the end of November. For each country, we describe some of the major human rights developments of the year, U.S. human rights policy toward that country (supplemented at times by a discussion of the role played by other international actors such as the U.N.), and our own response to those developments. This is our tenth annual review of U.S. human rights policy, and the third report that also describes human rights developments worldwide.
We have not in this volume included a chapter on every country on which we worked, nor have we discussed every issue of importance. Rather, the countries and issues treated reflect the focus of our work, which in turn is determined by a variety of factors: the seriousness of abuses, our access to information about them, our ability to influence governmental practices leading to the abuse, and our desire to balance our work across various political and other divides.