For much of this decade, the major powers regularly shirked their duty to promote human rights. This year, largely due to public insistence, there were signs that human rights are slowly returning to the fore. The trend is far from uniform, particularly when commercial interests are at stake, but it suggests a renewed official commitment to these universal principles as they are increasingly embraced by the peoples of the world.
Despite the great human rights victories represented by the collapse of repressive regimes in Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America, the first half of this decade saw a waning of will to uphold human rights among the major powers. Governments feared that the vigorous defense of these rights might offend trading partners and risk economic opportunities. While an emerging global economy demanded a new breadth of vision, political leaders grew parochial and indifferent in the human rights realm.
To soothe public disquiet over this abandonment of human rights, political leaders propounded facile theories about trade and investment inevitably leading to human rights progress. To calm outrage over their refusal to stop genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia-Hercegovina, they mustered belated humanitarian assistance. To justify inaction in the face of ethnic slaughter, they portrayed such carnage as timeless and inevitable. To allay calls to bring mass murderers to justice, they created international tribunals but denied them political and financial backing.
In the past year, there were indications that the pendulum is beginning to swing back. The utter failure of "constructive engagement" to secure human rights progress in China began to undermine the convenient proposition that trade and investment alone will automatically improve human rights. The horror of U.N. troops serving as silent witnesses to genocide in Bosnia_particularly in Srebrenica_highlighted the necessity of standing up to ethnic or sectarian slaughter. The tremendous cost of ending ethnic conflict heightened interest in preventing the human rights abuse that can transform ethnic tension into ethnic violence. The devastation wrought by abusive officials operating with impunity for their human rights crimes sparked a renewed sense of urgency behind the quest to bring official violators to justice. Increasingly, human rights were seen less as a dispensable luxury and more as an essential underpinning of global security and public well-being.
Political leaders played a disturbingly small role in this course correction. From U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's reluctance to offend powerful governments to U.S. President Bill Clinton's persistent tendency to yield on matters of human rights principle, their support for human rights was often belated, inconsistent and grudging. However, the public repeatedly showed itself troubled by this abdication of the human rights cause. When official indifference to abuse became intolerable in Bosnia, Chechnya, China and elsewhere, public demands for action grew. A burgeoning global human rights movement played an important part in building and expressing this public reaction.
Gaining prominence most recently in Beijing at the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women, this diverse network of activists and associations provided an increasingly powerful voice of principle and a genuinely cross-national perspective to combat the tendencies of national governments toward apathy and isolationism. It also ensured that governments pay a heavy political price for any flight from their human rights commitments.
An International System of Justice
A central issue defining the international commitment to human rights is whether to bring human rights criminals to justice. For the first time since Nuremberg, there is a chance to create an international system of justice to overcome the impunity bred by weak, corrupt or terrorized national judiciaries. The establishment of such a system would revolutionize the defense of human rights by adding a powerful threat of international prosecution and punishment to the existing tools of stigmatization and economic pressure. But the realization of this vision depends on the international community's willingness to match its supportive rhetoric with concrete action.
As the major powers debate whether to take this crucial step forward, an irrepressible longing for justice is surfacing, often in parts of the world where the proponents of amnesty and amnesia thought that the past had been forgotten and that festering wounds had healed. While abusive officials still try to exploit their positions of power to obtain impunity for their human rights crimes, many societies, particularly in Latin America but also in Africa and Asia, are demanding that the rule of law apply to all, that the book not be closed on the horrors of the past, and that the convenient compromises leading to amnesty and official forgetting be resisted in the name of rebuilding a collapsed moral order.
Illustrative was Haiti, where in September 1994 the Clinton administration through its envoy, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, enticed military leaders to relinquish power by promising them a general amnesty for the thousands of political murders committed under their rule. Upon being returned to power by a U.N.-authorized multinational force, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Haitian parliament refused to forget these crimes. Seeking to break the cycle of impunity that condemned Haiti to a succession of brutal regimes, President Aristide launched investigations of some of the more notorious murders. When Haiti's judicial system proved too feeble to secure justice on its own, he took the unusual step of inviting a team of foreign prosecutors to help. He also dismissed all senior military officials, effectively dissolved the Haitian army, and established a truth commission to create a public record of human rights crimes under military rule. (However, his frequent public support for "reconciliation and justice" was marred when, in a eulogy for a slain congressman, he contributed to a wave of vigilante killings by urging civilian participation in police disarmament efforts.)
Breaking its own pattern of impunity, Chile convicted and imprisoned two former secret police officials, Gen. Manuel Contreras Sepúlveda and Brig. Gen. Pedro Espinoza Bravo, for ordering the 1976 car-bomb assassination of a former Chilean defense minister and a U.S. colleague. In Honduras, a special prosecutor for human rights overcame threats and violence to issue a rare criminal indictment of active-duty Latin American military officers. Among those indicted (for kidnapping, torture and attempted murder in 1992) was Lt. Col. Alexander Hernández, the chief of operations in the early 1980s of the notoriously abusive Battalion 3-16 and currently the inspector general of the military police.
In Argentina, the army chief of staff issued an historic apology for crimes committed during the "dirty war" of the 1970s. Individual prosecutors in Guatemala and Peru courageously pressed forward with investigations of particular military atrocities. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights found that the Peruvian government violated the right to life during its deadly suppression of the 1986 riots in El Frontón prison. At the urging of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Colombian government investigated and accepted responsibility for the killing and forced disappearance of thirty-four people in 1994 and fired the lieutenant colonel who was implicated.
In Africa, Ethiopia is proceeding with the trial of forty-four leaders of the government of former President Mengistu Haile Mariam for its brutally repressive rule from 1974 to 1991 (although hundreds of others remain in custody without having been formally charged). South Africa has also filed murder charges against a number of former senior officials, including a former defense minister, Gen. Magnus Malan, in connection with abuses from the 1980s. In addition, it is ready to launch a truth commission before which abusive officials must confess their crimes to be eligible for indemnity from prosecution. In Asia, South Korean President Kim Young Sam has called for legislation to permit prosecution of the country's former military leaders for the 1980 massacre of pro-democracy protestors in Kwangju.
Whether this clamor for justice sparks a trend will depend in large part on the actions of the major powers toward the former Yugoslavia. President Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright and other U.S. officials have spoken eloquently about the need for justice to build the foundation for lasting peace, as opposed merely to a short-lived peace agreement. Behind their support lie important truths. Only justice for today's killers can deter those who might resume their bloodshed tomorrow. Only justice can offer unequivocal condemnation of warfare waged by the slaughter of civilians. Only justice can establish the rule of law to replace the cycle of summary revenge. And only justice can substitute an individualized assessment of guilt for the false assumptions of collective ethnic guilt that divide the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian communities.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has made important steps toward achieving justice by indicting, through mid-November, fifty-two people for murder, torture, rape and other acts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia and Croatia. Unlike Nuremberg, where only the losers faced justice, the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has indicted both Serbs and Croats, and tribunal prosecutors have pledged to seek indictments against all those for whom evidence of serious crimes can be found. But securing the defendants' presence for trial will depend on how the peace agreement initialed in Dayton, Ohio at the end of November is implemented.
The agreement represents an important advance toward justice in several respects. It demonstrates that a peace accord can be reached without promising amnesty to war criminals. It obliges the parties to "cooperate fully" with the tribunal. And it bars indicted war criminals from holding public office. However, ambiguities in the agreement may be exploited, such as the lack of an explicit requirement that indicted war criminals be arrested.
Whether trials take place is thus likely to depend on the international community's willingness to impose sanctions and withhold reconstruction aid for any government that refuses to surrender indicted defendants for trial. Pressure for justice may also come from the natural reluctance to deploy international troops and field workers where indicted war criminals, with a history of broken agreements and barbaric tactics, still maintain formal or de facto authority over troops. Equivocation on the demand that indicted war criminals be made to stand trial_the unwillingness to match rhetoric with action_risks making a mockery of the quest for justice by raising the specter of international representatives in Bosnia conducting business as usual with persons accused of the most heinous crimes. It would also set a damaging precedent of indifference for future efforts to establish an international system of justice.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has made far less progress than its counterpart for the former Yugoslavia. While evidence of the Rwandan genocide is ample and its orchestrators, in exile, are vulnerable to arrest, the Rwanda tribunal has proceeded at a snail's pace because of funding shortages, uninspired personnel, and international indifference. By tolerating this languid pace, the international community is squandering an opportunity to reduce severe ethnic tensions in Rwanda, where ascendant hard-liners within the new government seek to promote the myth that all Hutus, rather than particular individuals, are guilty of genocide. The hostility of the new government toward Hutus was shown by its detention in inhumane and life-threatening conditions of some 57,000 persons accused of genocide and by the Rwandan army's massacre of thousands of displaced persons. Meanwhile, some two million refugees outside Rwanda are afraid to return home and the leaders of the former government, not yet threatened by arrest or prosecution, re-arm and mount increasingly serious incursions into Rwanda.
Progress has been particularly difficult in the effort to establish a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC). Unlike the ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, the ICC would be available to try human rights criminals wherever national judicial systems fail in their duty to bring offenders to justice. Among its many forceful governmental proponents has been President Nelson Mandela's South Africa, which fully appreciates the difference that such a court could have made in deterring the repression of apartheid. But precisely because this court could be applied to Americans, the Clinton administration_a vocal supporter of justice elsewhere_has led efforts to undermine the independence of a future ICC. The U.S. found itself allied with such predictable opponents of international human rights enforcement as China, India, Mexico, North Korea and Pakistan.
In a speech honoring a Nuremberg prosecutor, President Clinton endorsed the ICC in principle. But his negotiators continue to insist on Security Council approval before any episode gives rise to prosecution_a transparent effort to allow the United States to veto prosecution of its own citizens or those of its allies. The other permanent Security Council members could only be expected to follow suit. The partial justice offered by such a politicized entity would sell far short the tremendous potential of the ICC.
As U.S. officials readily admit, there is little prospect that the United States in the current political climate in Washington would ratify even the watered-down version of the court they propose, meaning that U.S. citizens would not immediately be subject to it. Yet, rather than permit a strong court to go forward and simply wait until U.S. political leaders have the vision and courage to take part in an international system of justice, the Clinton administration threatens to miss this historic moment by sabotaging an institution that the U.S. government does not even plan to join.
The need for an international system of justice was made painfully apparent by the war in Chechnya. Russian troops attacked Grozny and surrounding areas with a ferocity not seen on Russian soil since World War II. Civilians faced massive indiscriminate shelling. Thousands died and hundreds of thousands were displaced.
At first, the international community responded firmly to these Russian abuses: the European Union froze an interim trade agreement and suspended ratification of a partnership and cooperation agreement; the Council of Europe suspended Russia's membership application; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe established a field mission in Grozny; and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights issued a critical statement. This tough reaction generated significant pressure to curb the killing. However, this pressure soon eased_particularly when the International Monetary Fund decided to extend a major loan to Russia_without any guarantee that those behind the slaughter would be brought to justice. Russian courts did convict seven servicemen for crimes against civilians, but the generals who ordered this butchery have escaped punishment.
The creation of an ad hoc international tribunal to end this impunity is unlikely because of Russia's veto on the Security Council. Only a pre-existing ICC would have offered the possibility of justice. Moreover, an ICC offers the best chance of ensuring that this carnage is not repeated, in Chechnya or elsewhere.
Similarly in Burundi, a paralyzed judicial system cries out for international assistance. Leaders involved in assassination and mass murder continue to exercise power because judicial officials, out of fear or political interest, refuse to initiate prosecutions. In this and a score of countries around the world, only an international forum would offer any prospect of justice for the victims of violent abuse. It is thus time for the major powers, and particularly the United States, to overcome parochial fears and become active partners in building a strong international system of justice.
The United Nations
Fifty years after the United Nations was founded to, among other things, "promot[e] and encourag[e] respect for human rights and...fundamental freedoms for all" (U.N. Charter, Art. 1), Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali has grievously failed to uphold these principles. Unwilling to offend powerful governments, the secretary-general could not bring himself to criticize the Chinese government for brazenly flouting the rights of free speech and association of those attending the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Women in Beijing. Similarly, at the height of the butchery in Chechnya, the secretary-general told journalists that he had "no comment" on the brutal war. His refrain that he is merely a humble servant of 185 masters cannot mask his abdication of leadership in the human rights realm.
This leadership void turned to active obstruction in Bosnia. As Bosnian Serb forces overran the Security Council-declared "safe area" of Srebrenica, the secretary-general allowed his military commander, French Lt. Gen. Bernard Janvier, to block the protective "close air support" that Dutch peacekeepers in the enclave sought and NATO planes were ready to provide. The result was the disappearance and probable slaughter of as many as 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Rather than learning from this tragedy about the importance of stopping genocide, the secretary-general continues to embrace only the classic view of peacekeeping: he favors only the consensual deployment of lightly armed troops in the context of an established cease-fire, while relegating to others the duty to prevent mass murder. Public esteem for the U.N. diminished significantly as a result of this shirking of the U.N.'s duty to secure fundamental human rights.
The Security Council fared only slightly better in fulfilling this responsibility. Human rights issues have come to dominate the Security Council's agenda, lying at the heart of virtually every situation it addresses_in Angola, Bosnia, Burundi, Croatia, El Salvador, Georgia, Guatemala, Haiti, the Israeli-occupied territories, Iraq, Liberia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Tajikistan and Western Sahara. This de facto recognition of the centrality of human rights to international peace and security is an important advance from the days when human rights issues were relegated to the obscurity of Geneva. Today, Security Council resolutions routinely call for respect for human rights and the establishment of field operations to protect those rights.
However, the effectiveness of these field operations varied considerably and was frequently poor. On the positive side, 6,000 peacekeepers in Haiti helped to maintain a stable environment during President Aristide's first full year in office after a U.N.-authorized military force compelled the Haitian army to relinquish power. The U.N. mission in Guatemala produced three excellent reports while providing some protection for independent human rights monitors. U.N. representatives in Cambodia also helped to check repressive governmental tendencies by issuing critical human rights reports.
By contrast, the U.N. operation in Liberia has made no public mention of human rights concerns. The U.N. operation in Western Sahara stood by quietly as Morocco worked to undermine the fairness of a planned referendum on the territory's status. U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda sometimes contributed to the security of people at risk, but they failed to fulfill their mandate to protect civilians when Rwandan troops opened fire on displaced persons in Kibeho and mobs attacked those forced to return home. The U.N. presence in Mozambique underwrote total impunity for horrendous abuses during the recently concluded war, and the U.N. operation in Angola seemed headed in a similar direction. U.N. troops in Croatia began serious efforts to document human rights abuses only after Croatian forces retook Serb-held regions; until then, U.N. forces effectively accepted "ethnic cleansing" and spent more time evacuating non-Serbs than protecting, let alone repatriating, them.
Bosnia was the site of the U.N.'s most disturbing performance. Despite numerous resolutions calling for respect for human rights, the Security Council's repeated failure to act on these principles led to a devaluation of its condemnatory currency. Once a powerful tool, critical Security Council resolutions were cheapened. Commands issued by the score were flouted because they were so rarely backed by the will to enforce them. Instead, for most of the year, the Security Council's only concrete answer to the victims of ethnic slaughter was belated humanitarian assistance_a palliative which, while exposing vulnerable humanitarian workers to the threat of retaliation, provided a convenient pretext for avoiding more effective action. It was only after the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa and the shelling of a Sarajevo market that the need for U.N. headquarters to consent to NATO air strikes was eliminated and NATO deployed decisive force to stop the shelling of Sarajevo (although "ethnic cleansing" continued in other parts of Bosnia). This new resolve must be maintained to avoid returning to the view that, so long as officially organized mass murder takes place within internationally recognized borders, it is of no consequence to the "international peace and security" that the Security Council is charged with upholding.
Moreover, the U.N. has a particular duty to ensure that its representatives never again act as silent witnesses to atrocities. While the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica justifiably cast blame for the fall of the enclave on the obstruction of General Janvier, they cannot escape responsibility for their embarrassed silence at a time when immediate and public protest might have saved thousands of lives.
One significant human rights victory at the U.N. was the reaffirmation of the universality of human rights by the U.N.-sponsored World Conference on Women. Because many repressive governments saw the conference as an opportunity to weaken or qualify the strong human rights guarantees contained in international treaties, there was a risk of retrenchment. These governments tried to use the conference to suggest that the abuse of women is a "private" matter, that it should be tolerated in the name of "custom," or that it is irrelevant to overcoming the poverty, lack of education and unequal job opportunities faced by women everywhere. Yet, women's rights activists from around the world came to Beijing to reject this cynical attack. While affirming their varying cultural and religious backgrounds, they stood together around the belief that all women deserve full respect for their human rights, that rigid concepts of privacy and tradition cannot stand in the way of these basic rights, and that violence and discrimination against women lie behind many of the economic and social problems addressed by the conference. However, because impunity for the violation of women's human rights remains the global norm, further pressure will be needed to ensure that the official commitments made at the conference to secure women's rights will be translated into effective protection.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights José Ayala Lasso continued to display a disappointing tendency to avoid confrontation in his dealings with abusive governments. He was at his best during a visit to Kashmir, where his guarded comments were reported widely in the Indian press. But in Beijing, as Chinese authorities detained journalists virtually before his eyes, he ducked the opportunity to criticize this clear human rights violation by saying he would have to investigate the circumstances. In Rwanda, the human rights monitoring operation that he oversees went through much of the year without issuing a single public report, although the September appointment of an experienced human rights investigator to head the mission may signal a more vigorous reporting role.
Moreover, the high commissioner continued to treat his job as if it should be limited to the monitoring and advice traditionally offered by the U.N. Centre for Human Rights. Although he is supposed to coordinate all U.N. human rights activities, his voice was not heard at the Security Council as it deployed and managed a variety of U.N. field operations with immediate human rights consequences. The lack of human rights expertise serving the Security Council_indeed, the lack of any formal link between the council and the Human Rights Centre in Geneva_has contributed to the council's difficulty in effectively implementing its resolutions on human rights.
The high commissioner did take steps to prevent governments from substituting his relatively quiet diplomacy for the tough, public reporting of U.N. special rapporteurs, as occurred in 1994 when Cuba invited him to visit while refusing entrance to the special rapporteur for the country. Invitations for him to visit Iran, Iraq and Sudan_all countries that bar visits by special rapporteurs_were deferred.
Global Trade and Investment
The rise of a global economy has not seen a parallel global commitment to ensure respect for human rights on the part of the major economic powers. While multinational corporations look abroad for economic opportunity, Western political leaders continue to avert their gaze from parallel human rights concerns. To justify this neglect, these leaders proffer a theory that trade and investment are the best defense of human rights. Yet, as the events of 1995 exposed the hypocrisy behind this prescription, it became increasingly clear that the market is not an automatic guarantor of human rights.
The bankruptcy of this policy of "constructive engagement" was most apparent in China, where the Chinese Communist Party used the enhanced revenue generated by international trade to tighten its grip on power while ruthlessly crushing any attempt to initiate political reform. Since May 1994, when President Clinton delinked China's Most Favored Nation (MFN) trade status from its human rights record, human rights conditions in China and Tibet have deteriorated markedly. Chinese authorities have arrested additional dissidents and rearrested previously released dissidents, filed new criminal charges against democracy activist Wei Jingsheng, renewed a crackdown on Tibetans, suspended negotiations for prison visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and tightened controls on the media and on religious practices outside officially controlled churches_all in addition to their continuing practice of torture, use of forced labor, and tight restrictions on civil society.
Even the formal U.S.-China human rights dialogue, begun in 1990, has largely ended. In 1991, when MFN for China was hotly contested, nearly 800 cases of political prisoners were discussed, and a few prisoners were released. In 1994, before MFN linkage with human rights was abandoned, another 400 cases were discussed and a few additional prisoners were released. By contrast, during the October 1995 summit between Presidents Clinton and Jiang Zemin, U.S. officials quietly handed over a list of four political prisoners, and none was released. Still, the Clinton administration proclaimed the summit "highly positive."
Contrary to predictions by proponents of this trade-based human rights policy, those provinces with the most dramatic economic development and the highest level of foreign investment have shown no greater respect for civil and political rights than have other parts of China. Indeed, certain human rights violations_such as the repression of labor activists and the mistreatment of migrant laborers_appear to have increased with economic development.
A serious effort was made by the European Union, the United States, Japan and others to condemn China's abysmal record before the U.N. Human Rights Commission. While the effort failed by one vote, it represented the first time that a commission resolution to condemn a permanent member of the Security Council had survived procedural challenges to come to a substantive vote. U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton also delivered a strong rebuke to Chinese repression in a speech at the U.N. Women's Conference.
Yet the important message sent by these efforts was undermined by the flood of Western leaders to China in search of business opportunities despite the Chinese government's deteriorating human rights record. U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown continued to epitomize this approach as he traveled to Beijing to pay obeisance to Chinese rulers with nary a public word about the brutal underpinnings of China's economy. U.S. Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary and a delegation of corporate executives joined the caravan without any public criticism of China's human rights practices. The White House did try to highlight the corporate community's potential as a force for human rights, but the Model Business Principles it issued were far too vague and broadly worded to have any impact on the specific problem they were meant to address: human rights violations in China.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl embodied similar priorities as he led a parade of German commercial supplicants to Beijing. While his delegation sought release of a list of political detainees, Chancellor Kohl stressed the need to take into account varying cultural traditions in applying universal human rights standards_the same code words used by China to justify its repression. He also became the first European head of government to visit a Chinese army base, despite a European Union arms embargo in effect since China's crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democracy movement. Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, another proponent of "constructive engagement," welcomed Chinese Premier Li Peng as a featured speaker at a conference of the Canada China Business Council, with only discreet mention of human rights. In the end, no government seemed willing to risk the economic consequences of applying consistent political and economic pressure to Beijing. Nor did any government take the lead in developing multilateral forms of pressure that would prevent less principled competitors from undercutting those who stand up for human rights.
The continued subordination of human rights to commercial concerns could be found outside of China as well. Despite the enormous leverage provided by a $20 billion economic support package, the U.S. government made only one cautious public statement about Mexican human rights abuses. (As with every country, the State Department also commented on Mexico in its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, but the widespread failure to modify U.S. policy to reflect these generally accurate accounts continued to undermine their significance.) Brazil, another "big emerging market" in the U.S. Commerce Department's world view, did not warrant a single public mention about, for example, its alarming rate of police killings, even when President Clinton met with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The same silence reigned over U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, where the quest for billions of dollars in new contracts helped to foster a quiet tolerance of systematic discrimination against women, the repression of independent public expression, a crackdown on largely nonviolent Islamists, and the lack of any prospect for elections. France and Britain were equally silent about Saudi human rights practices as they vied for military sales to the kingdom.
Japan, while committed in principle to linking its Official Development Assistance (ODA) to democratization and the promotion of human rights, rarely invoked this policy in Asia. Burma was the principal exception, but even there Japan was quick to begin talks for the resumption of ODA following the release from house arrest of Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, despite her own recommendation that Japan move slowly in restoring aid. Apart from Burma, Japan has cut off ODA mainly to African countries, although it has raised human rights concerns in its "policy dialogues" with some Asian governments. The United Kingdom, for its part, held its second "British Week" to encourage British business in Burma. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also prepared to admit Burma despite its highly abusive military government.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl overlooked Indonesia's poor human rights record, including a new crackdown on free expression and association, to preside at the signing of major business deals during a visit to Germany by Indonesia's President Soeharto. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands visited Indonesia to express regret over Holland's colonial role, but this gesture was undermined by the downplaying of Indonesian abuses as a delegation of Dutch business people pursued Indonesian contracts.
While powerful business interests lie behind these misplaced priorities, hope lies in the public discomfort periodically shown at this coddling of dictators and the accompanying vacuous pledges that unhampered trade would inevitably improve human rights. U.S. Commerce Secretary Brown typified the cynicism behind this trade with tyrants during a trip to India to clinch business deals worth billions of dollars. He announced that while "commercial diplomacy" was one way to effect human rights improvements, "one doesn't have to wait for the other." Despite a self-imposed obligation to promote human rights through trade and diplomatic channels, the European Union also approved two major development projects in India with little evidence of a serious effort to raise human rights concerns.
The power of public outrage to reassert principle over profit was seen in the reaction to China's Three Gorges dam project. The Chinese government has already tried to silence local protests over the dam's anticipated environmental damage and plans to displace forcibly over one million people. Public criticism in the West of U.S. investment banks Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley for vying for the right to finance the project led China to announce that it would suspend its search for foreign financing of the dam in 1995. In addition, the White House recommended, on human rights and environmental grounds, that the U.S. Export-Import Bank not fund dam-related projects.
Similarly, public outrage over Indonesia's abuse of human rights met President Soeharto's deal-signing visit to Germany. Public protests in Australia over the naming and acceptance as Indonesian ambassador of a general who had defended the military's action in the 1991 killing of demonstrators in Dili, East Timor, led to his withdrawal.
A more appropriate balance was struck between trade and human rights in dealings with Vietnam. When President Clinton opened diplomatic relations with Vietnam, he announced that normal economic relations, involving such matters as MFN trade status and coverage by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), would require certification of Vietnam's human and labor rights practices. The European Union, for its part, signed a trade and cooperation agreement with Vietnam conditioned on "[r]espect for human rights and democratic principles." Such linkage was needed because, despite Vietnam's increasing integration into the world economy and such other diplomatic breakthroughs as becoming the seventh member of ASEAN, it ordered new arrests and prosecution of political and religious dissidents.
Whether the major economic powers will maintain a better balance between trade and human rights will be seen in several pending decisions:
_ The European Parliament is poised to decide whether to ratify a "customs union agreement" with Turkey which has been negotiated by the European Union. Ratification has been conditioned on specific improvements in Turkey's human rights practices. Turkey has taken some steps to comply, but its serious abuses against the Kurdish population continue.
_ The Organization on Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the club of industrial democracies, is considering membership for South Korea. Its stated commitment to uphold labor rights will be measured by whether it insists that South Korea lift its extensive restrictions on independent labor activity as a condition of membership. (The South Korean government boycotted an OECD seminar on worker rights in order to avoid awkward questions about Korea's repressive laws and practices.)
_ The U.S. government has announced that it will remove tariff benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) from one of three designated imports unless Pakistan complies with unspecified commitments regarding the use of child and bonded labor. Washington is also considering a challenge to Indonesia's eligibility for GSP trade benefits because of labor rights abuses that include military intervention in peaceful labor disputes and the harassment of independent labor organizers.
_ The European Union is considering a similar petition based on Pakistan's use of bonded child labor as well as Burma's use of forced labor.
These and other pending decisions provide an opportunity for the economic powers to act on the fact that unrestrained trade and investment, without a firm parallel commitment to promote human rights, offer no guarantee of human rights progress.
The World Bank is often at the center of the debate over the relationship of trade and human rights. For many years, it hid behind its charter's prohibition of involvement in "political" affairs to justify ignoring human rights. However, prompted largely by the lack of economic progress in countries governed by abusive and corrupt governments in sub-Saharan Africa, the bank now accepts that "good governance" is relevant to its development goals. But it generally still tends to define this concept narrowly to include only transparent and sound fiscal management, not the broad accountability that would be ensured by a vigorous civil society, full political participation including free elections, and the rule of law.
Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working to convince the World Bank to accept the economic significance of these human rights concerns. There is evidence that such ideas are now received more sympathetically at the bank: for example, the bank's private-sector branch, the International Finance Corporation, cited "macro-economic" considerations to reject a loan for a gas liquification project in Nigeria just hours after the Nigerian military's execution without elementary due process of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight ethnic Ogoni activists who were outspoken critics of the oil industry's role in that country. However, much work must still be done to integrate this perspective into the mainstream of the bank's thinking.
Because so many multinational corporations claim that their trade and investment inherently promote human rights, it is only proper that their conduct be more closely scrutinized_particularly as global trade dwarfs governmental aid programs. But while government-to-government aid is regularly conditioned on respect for human rights, multinational corporations face few if any such restrictions, even though their power often exceeds that of governments. The heightened scrutiny of corporate practices has led a growing number of businesses to adopt codes of conduct that include human rights standards for their factories and those of their suppliers. A smaller but growing number of companies are taking serious steps to implement these codes through regular monitoring. Perhaps most important, consumers increasingly want to make sure that the goods they buy are not the product of human rights abuse.
Human Rights Watch believes that all businesses have a duty to avoid direct complicity in violations of international human rights and labor rights standards such as discrimination, the use of forced and bonded labor, and restrictions on the right to free expression and association, including on the right to organize a labor union and bargain collectively. At a minimum, this duty extends to the adoption of country-specific standards for avoiding such complicity and the implementation of a concrete program to apply those standards through credible on-site inspections of factories and suppliers. When these standards are not met, immediate corrective steps should be taken or the commercial relationship should be ended.
The duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuse can also extend outside the walls of a factory or supplier, since the refusal to address broader human rights issues can come back to haunt multinational businesses unexpectedly. Illustrative is the experience of Royal Dutch Shell, whose call to Nigerian security forces to protect its oil installations from Ogoni protesters set in motion a series of military abuses that included brutal attacks on Ogoni villages and the appalling execution of nine Ogoni activists. Despite Shell's tremendous influence as the company responsible for nearly half of Nigeria's oil production, it refused to engage in anything but "quiet diplomacy" to end the atrocities and consequently is now left with a dark stain on its reputation. Unocal and Total face similar issues as they proceed with plans to build a gas pipeline across Burma, where a highly abusive military junta and the pervasive use of forced labor to build the country's infrastructure virtually guarantee their complicity in human rights abuses. Troubling issues must also be faced by businesses that manufacture in South Asia, with its widespread use of bonded child labor.
Moreover, while businesses legitimately point out that they are not human rights organizations, the more far-sighted companies increasingly recognize that the same strong judiciary and rule of law needed to protect dissidents also safeguard their own commercial interests. Similarly, a healthy civil society and democratic rule are the best guarantor of the long-term stability that business needs to thrive. Recognition of the intersecting interests of business and the human rights community should lead to the striking of a better balance between trade and human rights.
The Arms Trade
The quest for foreign markets takes on a particularly insidious form when the commodity is weapons. The flood of weapons to abusive governments can intensify repression and compound human suffering. Human Rights Watch believes that all governments have a duty to prevent the transfer of arms to abusive governments and to prohibit the production and stockpiling of weapons, such as landmines, that are inherently prone to abuse.
This duty continued to be regularly breached. Despite a European Union pronouncement in 1993 that arms sales to Nigeria would be presumptively barred, Britain continued to sell arms to the Nigerian military right up until the execution of the nine Ogoni activists. Although the European Union imposed an arms embargo following the execution, it exempted the delivery of military equipment under contracts that had already been signed.
France was revealed in 1995 to have flouted the previous year a Security Council ban on arms sales to the genocidal army of Rwanda. Britain muted criticism of severe human rights abuses to endorse India's policy on Kashmir while promoting the sale of military aircraft to Delhi. Russia and Ukraine sent weapons to the Angolan government despite a peace accord. China continued to send helicopters, armored vehicles, naval vessels and rifles to Burma. The U.S. government tried to authorize the private sale of cluster bombs to Turkey until public exposure scuttled the plan, although the U.S. continues to sell other arms to Turkey despite its use of them to wage an abusive counterinsurgency war. The United States did refuse to license the sale of weapons to Algeria's violently abusive government_unlike France, which sold Algeria nine helicopters which could easily be refitted for military purposes.
On the positive side, a South African commission of inquiry established by the Mandela government to look into arms sales by the previous government reported a "dismal picture of irresponsibility." The current government established a cabinet-level committee to authorize all future arms sales based on a review that includes human rights criteria. The government has already rejected Nigeria as an arms recipient.
A growing coalition of 350 NGOs from some three dozen countries, led in part by Human Rights Watch, placed landmines on the international agenda by highlighting the tremendous human suffering caused by these indiscriminate weapons and by calling for a total ban on the production, stockpiling, trade and use of antipersonnel mines. To date, eighteen nations have announced support for a comprehensive ban, and thirty-one nations have unilaterally banned mine exports. However, at an international conference convened to consider restrictions on the use of landmines, the United States, Britain and other governments promoted their technologically superior "self-destruct" mines as the solution to the global landmines crisis, while China, India and others sought to avoid rendering their technologically simpler mines obsolete. As a result, negotiations on new restrictions were suspended until 1996.
A recent NGO effort to ban blinding laser weapons was more fruitful. Revelations by Human Rights Watch and the ICRC that these inherently cruel weapons were being developed sparked a campaign which led to an international agreement that intentional blinding is an unacceptable way to wage war. Although the U.S. government insisted on a loophole to permit the use of certain blinding lasers that it has developed, the Pentagon simultaneously announced the cancellation of its program to begin full-scale production of these lasers.
Closing the Door to Refugees
From Burma to Rwanda, from Algeria to Bosnia, the spread of warfare waged through the targeting of civilians contributed to a large and continuing flow of refugees. Yet as xenophobia rises in many receiving countries, the international response to refugees has become increasingly stingy. Even the bedrock principle of international refugee law_the prohibition against forcibly repatriating refugees to face a well-founded fear of persecution_is violated routinely.
The U.S. government epitomized this disregard for refugee protection when, in January 1995, it forcibly repatriated without a hearing more than 3,700 Haitians who had been held at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo, Cuba. Although the return of President Aristide the previous October had markedly improved respect for human rights in Haiti, some Haitians legitimately feared repatriation because many of the military and paramilitary forces that had ruled Haiti for the prior three years remained armed and at large. For a brief period before screening procedures were improved, the U.S. government violated the same principle by summarily repatriating Cuban asylum-seekers. Cuba had vowed not to prosecute the asylum-seekers for "illegal exit," but the crime remained on the books, and Cuba continued to imprison a wide range of peaceful dissidents. U.S. Border Patrol agents also continued to commit acts of violence with impunity against undocumented migrants crossing from Mexico into the United States, although the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) began to take corrective steps.
The reaction of Western Europe to an influx of refugees was no more generous. While Germany has taken commendable steps to prosecute those behind right-wing and xenophobic violence, police abuse of foreigners is on the rise. Both Germany and France, like a growing number of European governments, now apply summary procedures to assess the claims of asylum-seekers from countries that are deemed to be "safe" for repatriation, often despite substantial contrary evidence. France also denies asylum, with rare exception, for people facing persecution by rebel groups, even though international law does not limit refugee status to those facing persecution by governments. The cost of such narrow application of refugee law is compounded by the Schengen Agreement among several European countries, which reinforces the practice of summarily rejecting asylum applications if another country that generally observes refugee standards has already ruled against the asylum-seeker, however unjustly.
Nor is the West alone in shutting the door on refugees. Those fleeing repression and warfare in Burma were rarely granted formal refugee protection by Thailand. The result was a legal limbo which left many Burmese subject to harassment, detention, forced prostitution and deportation. The Thai military also failed for part of the year to prevent cross-border raids upon Burmese refugee camps.
Similarly, the Iranian government announced that its 1.6 million Afghan refugees must leave the country by March 1997 despite ongoing civil war in Afghanistan. Libya began expelling Palestinian refugees and immigrants to embarrass the Palestinian Authority for signing a second peace agreement with Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians were dumped on the Egyptian border, where they were forced to live in wretched makeshift camps because they lacked papers that would entitle them to enter the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, or anywhere else. Libya also started expelling a large portion of its 1.5 million African immigrants, citing alleged economic difficulties resulting from the international embargo imposed by the U.N. Following deteriorating relations with its neighbors to the east, Sudan in turn threatened to expel Ethiopian and Eritrean refugees to make room for the thousands of Sudanese deported from Libya.
The Role of Civil Society
Often the best measure of governmental respect for human rights is the visible presence of people exercising those rights by forming organizations, assembling, speaking out publicly, and publishing independently. However, because this pluralism is antithetical to the monopoly on political space that dictators seek to maintain, civil society is a frequent target of their repression. The past year was no exception.
The military government in Nigeria, seeking to silence criticism of its protracted "transition to democracy," banned independent publications, dissolved independent trade unions, and imprisoned journalists, pro-democracy activists and human rights monitors. The Sudanese government arrested hundreds of demonstrators, shut down newspapers and, with the help of government-organized surveillance committees, detained supposed agitators for months without charge or trial. In Kenya, independent organizations, journalists, and political opponents faced shutdowns, violent attacks, and politically motivated charges.
In Peru, under the guise of combatting a guerrilla force, the government used "faceless courts" and secret military tribunals to imprison political opponents without the most basic due process. Colombia similarly misused "public order" courts in the name of combatting guerrillas and drug traffickers. Cuba continued to charge human rights activists and political dissidents with the thought and speech crimes of "enemy propaganda," "clandestine printing," "contempt of authority," "anti-social behavior," and violating "socialist morality."
The Cambodian government used a criminal defamation law to silence journalists and editors. The Indonesian government prosecuted journalists, harassed independent labor organizations and banned public appearances by popular opposition figures. Having failed to take strong action against the explosion of violence in Karachi, the Pakistani government lashed out at the press by banning newspapers and bringing lawsuits against critical journalists. The Chinese government responded to open petitions calling for greater tolerance and democracy by jailing signatories.
Azerbaijan prosecuted journalists for insulting the honor and dignity of the president. Armenia closed twelve news agencies allegedly associated with a suspended opposition party. Uzbekistan prosecuted political opponents on trumped-up charges of drug and arms possession. Turkey harassed, imprisoned and tortured journalists. Kyrgyzstan imprisoned independent journalists. Bulgaria continued to deny legal registration to forty-five "non-traditional" religions. Turkmenistan beat and arrested protesters.
Saudi Arabia arrested hundreds of members of the largely nonviolent Islamist opposition and, having prohibited an independent press within the kingdom, banned the possession of satellite dishes to curtail the spread of critical reporting from abroad. Egypt used its fight against violent Islamists as a pretext to suppress public criticism, jail political opponents, restrict political participation, and arrest and torture lawyers. Iran allowed a mob of militants to attack a prominent intellectual who was advocating a liberal interpretation of Islamic principles.
Syria's state security courts sentenced nonviolent dissidents to long prison terms. Algeria barred meetings about human rights organized by opposition political parties. Bahrain security forces used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators seeking the restoration of parliament and constitutional rule and detained hundreds of protesters. Palestinian authorities in the self-rule areas closed newspapers and, in part due to U.S. and Israeli urging that terrorism be rooted out, subjected political opponents to closed, summary trials.
Abuse of Elections
As recognition grows of the right freely to elect one's governmental representatives, more governments felt compelled to hold elections in order to gain legitimacy. However, some governments attempted to substitute an electoral charade for a free and competitive polling, without permitting the vigorous debate and broad participation that make elections meaningful.
The most outrageous attempt was in Iraq where, despite harsh repression against any independent political activity, President Saddam Hussein claimed to have received 99.9 percent approval in a referendum on his rule. In Turkmenistan, all candidates were nominated by the president and ran uncontested. Kazakstan dissolved parliament and, after a popular referendum riddled with irregularities, canceled the 1996 presidential elections and allowed the president to remain uncontested in office until the year 2000. Tajikistan held parliamentary elections flawed by intimidation and fraud.
Egypt used military courts to jail opposition candidates in advance of its elections. Algeria, determined to obtain high voter turnout for a presidential election despite a limited choice of candidates, censored the media, barred rallies and arrested activists favoring a boycott. Iran restricted candidate eligibility and closed newspapers in advance of its election in 1996. President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire put off scheduled elections for another two years, extending his announced "transition to democracy" to seven years. The Burmese military continued to imprison sixteen members of parliament who had been elected in the annulled 1990 elections together with some one thousand other political prisoners.
The Armenian government suspended the oldest and most popular opposition party in the months before Armenia's first post-Soviet parliamentary elections. Azerbaijan prosecuted political opponents and excluded some from parliamentary elections. Albania banned several prominent opposition politicians from elections scheduled for early 1996 under a law meant to bar officials from the pre-1991 government but worded so vaguely and so lacking in due process guarantees as to make selective application easy.
The Right to Monitor
The human rights movement continued to grow and gain a foothold in new and often hostile parts of the world. Typical of its resilience is the explosion of strong and capable groups in sub-Saharan Africa, despite chaos and repression in Zaire, a systematic crackdown on human rights activists in Nigeria, and threats and harassment in Kenya. In Latin America, the movement continues to display its sophistication and vibrancy. Parts of Asia host a diverse and growing assembly of human rights groups. Human rights groups are also slowly emerging in many of the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Because the public exposure of human rights violations is so powerful, abusive governments go to great lengths to prevent revelation of their crimes. In extreme cases, human rights monitors risk their lives to reveal abuses. The exceptional dedication and courage of many human rights monitors was illustrated by Sergei Kovalyev, the Russian human rights commissioner, who braved the massive shelling of Grozny to report on the savagery of Russian troops in Chechnya.
At least nine human rights monitors disappeared or were murdered over the last year in apparent retaliation for their work, including three in Colombia and two in Algeria:
_ In Colombia, Ernesto Fernández Fester was killed by armed men who had been linked to several earlier killings of peasant and civic leaders. Javier Barriga Vergel and Humberto Peña Prieto were killed by unidentified assailants.
_ In Algeria, human rights activist Abdel-Hafid Megdoud was murdered by unidentified assailants, while an armed Islamist group reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing of women's rights activist Nabila Djahnine.
_ In Guatemala, one human rights monitor, Manuel Saquic Vásquez, was kidnapped and brutally murdered. A death squad associated with the military later took credit for the killing. Another monitor, Martin Quip Mocu, was seriously wounded when soldiers opened fire on an unarmed crowd.
_ Jaswant Singh Khalra of Punjab, India, was arrested and disappeared after his office filed a legal petition claiming that the Punjab police had killed and secretly cremated hundreds.
_ In Honduras, Pedro Espinosa Osorio, a security guard for National Commissioner for Human Rights Leo Valladares Lanza, was killed on a public bus by unknown assailants amid regular death threats to Valladares.
_ Disaster relief expert Frederick Cuny was reportedly detained and summarily executed while on a mission for the Open Society Institute to assess food and medicine needs in southern Chechnya. A U.S. citizen and a member of the Human Rights Watch Arms Project Advisory Committee, he was reportedly captured by Chechen forces who may have been reacting to allegedly leaked Russian intelligence information. It is widely believed that he incurred the wrath of the Russian government because of his outspoken views on the abusive conduct of the war.
In some countries, human rights activists faced detention and trumped-up criminal charges for their bravery. Wei Jingsheng, China's most outspoken advocate of democracy and human rights, was charged with attempting to overthrow the government. Having served most of a fifteen-year sentence for seeking democratic change, he had been rearrested in April 1994 after only six months of freedom.
Those detained in Nigeria included the leaders of the major human rights and pro-democracy organizations, such as the Civil Liberties Organization and the Campaign for Democracy. Monitors in Cuba faced lengthy prison sentences for such crimes as "enemy propaganda" and, though less frequently than in the past, attacks by government-organized mobs in self-styled "acts of repudiation." Activists were also detained or remained in custody for reporting human rights information in Burma, China and Tibet, Egypt, India, Indonesia and East Timor, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian-administered Gaza Strip, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
Human rights monitors faced threats and other forms of harassment in Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Rwanda, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Zaire.
No overt domestic human rights monitoring was possible in Burma, China and Tibet, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam.
Human Rights Watch
Over the last year, Human Rights Watch has continued to adjust to the shifting global climate for the protection of human rights_from the spread of ethnic strife to the growing importance of trade in comparison to governmental aid as a tool for curbing abuse. Perhaps most important, as an expanding human rights movement takes root in many countries, we have endeavored to ensure closer and more effective alliances with our local colleagues. We worked jointly to set research priorities, undertake investigations, and pursue advocacy strategies. Our special contribution to this work derives from our broad mandate, our capacity to undertake lengthy and difficult field investigations, our established reputation among the international press corps, and our ability to insert human rights issues into the foreign policy deliberations of influential governments.
As the nature of human rights abuse changes in many parts of the world_with classic political imprisonment often giving way to labor rights violations, abuse related to competition over resources, or warfare among ethnic groups_we have adjusted our investigative priorities. For example, with our capacity to mount complex wartime investigations and our long history of reporting on violations of not only human rights but also humanitarian law or the laws of war, we launched repeated investigations over the past year and issued numerous reports concerning atrocities in Bosnia and Chechnya. In the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, we opened a field office to collect detailed evidence against those responsible and to help to deter a new outbreak of killing.
With this war-related work in particular, we sought to highlight the need to bring the authors of atrocities to justice. We worked closely with prosecutors from the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia and devoted substantial attention and resources to securing the establishment of an International Criminal Court.
We also published a global report on communal conflict which drew on ten case studies to reveal the human rights abuse that is frequently the proximate cause of this bloodshed. Our goal was to promote preventive action by identifying the violations of human rights that can serve as an early warning sign of communal violence.
In the economic realm, we heightened our scrutiny of development efforts to ensure that they proceed with due attention to human rights. We highlighted adverse human rights consequences of such development projects as China's Three Gorges dam and of logging, mining and other extraction operations in Asia and Latin America. Our goal is not to halt this economic activity but to ensure that it is carried out with full respect for human rights and only after free public debate inside the relevant country about its desirability.
As international trade and investment dwarfs government-to-government assistance, we are paying closer attention to the human rights role of the business community. Many companies now seek advice from us on how to set and implement human rights standards for their own operations and those of their suppliers. When voluntary efforts are lacking, we have investigated and publicized business complicity in human rights violations. One special investigation that we have launched is into the use of bonded child labor by South Asian suppliers of multinational corporations.
To curtail the devastation caused by the flourishing arms trade, we continued to investigate not only abuses attributable to government and rebel forces but also the ways in which those forces obtain their arms. We conducted lengthy investigations and issued reports on the U.S. role in supplying the abusive Turkish military and the role in 1994 of France, Zaire and others in supplying the genocidal Rwandan army. We also helped to launch and lead large coalitions of NGOs to stop the use of inherently indiscriminate landmines and cruel blinding laser weapons.
The global communications revolution, with its flood of human rights information, presents both opportunity and hazard for our work. While the stigmatization of abusive governments is easier, the avalanche of news accounts about repression and abuse risks fueling isolationism and encouraging a sense of helplessness among the general public. To avoid reinforcing this despair, we have tried to move beyond simply investigating and reporting abuse to also link the information we publish to the steps that could be taken to curtail abuse.
We have worked closely with certain governments to craft pro-human rights policies. Illustrative was our positive response to a request from the Brazilian government that we help it formulate a national plan of action on human rights. We also assisted in drafting a new press law for Cambodia and provided guidance to a newly created U.S. advisory board that is reviewing the human rights practices of the INS. In addition, we are using our growing legal expertise to support and employ such international mechanisms as the Human Rights Committee and the Inter-American Court on Human Rights.
Recognizing the importance of enlisting support for human rights from all quarters, we have continued to internationalize our advocacy. We took steps to bolster our new Brussels office in order to expand our contacts with European NGOs and journalists and to extend our reach to European governments. With our new U.N. representative in place, we substantially intensified our research and advocacy directed toward the United Nations, with a special focus on U.N. field operations that affect human rights. We also continued periodic visits to Tokyo to work with local allies in encouraging the Japanese government to promote human rights more vigorously. At the World Bank, we expanded our informal contacts and our provision of information about human rights practices in countries where the bank is considering loans.
In advance of the U.N. Women's Conference in Beijing, we issued a global report on women's human rights which highlighted the broad range of rights violations confronted by women worldwide and the diverse efforts to overcome these abuses. The lengthy and detailed report helped the thousands of activists in Beijing to demonstrate that women's rights must be addressed if women are to overcome the many social and economic problems they face. It also helped to lay the groundwork for an emerging and powerful alliance between women's and human rights organizations to secure accountability for violations of women's human rights.
Our insistence that human rights standards be applied universally led us to undertake a series of investigations and reports on human rights abuses in established democracies. We investigated or reported on prison conditions in Japan and the treatment of foreigners and immigrants in France, Germany and Britain. In the United States, our investigations and reports addressed police abuse, sexual abuse of women inmates, cruel practices in supermaximum security prisons, abusive custodial facilities for juveniles, the judicial execution of juvenile offenders, Border Patrol abuse along the U.S.-Mexican border, U.S. violations of international refugee law in the summary repatriation of Cuban and Haitian asylum-seekers, and U.S. compliance with and reporting under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. We also continued to press for U.S. ratification of, among other treaties, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the 1977 Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
What follows is a review of human rights practices in sixty-five countries. This report, released in advance of Human Rights Day, December 10, covers events from December 1994 through November 1995. Each chapter examines major human rights developments during the year and the response of the international community. While we continue to devote particular attention to the human rights policies of the U.S. government, this report reflects our increasing focus as well on the human rights policies of the European Union, the United Nations, Japan, the World Bank, and other international actors. Each country chapter also details restrictions on human rights monitoring and the efforts of Human Rights Watch to end abuse.
This is our sixth report on human rights developments worldwide and our thirteenth on U.S. human rights policy. The volume does not include a chapter on every country where we worked, nor does it discuss every issue of importance. The countries and issues treated reflect the focus of our work in 1995, which in turn was determined by the severity of abuses, our access to information about them, our ability to influence abusive practices, and our desire to balance our work across various political and regional divides.