Donald Fraser, Minnesota's 5th district congressman, speaking to an audience at the University of Minnesota at Duluth. Fraser’s address was on the topic of human rights. Fraser has been called one of the nation's strongest champions of human rights. Fraser has served on the House International Relations committee and was instrumental in the house investigation of the so-called 'Koreagate' scandal in congress.
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(00:00:00) Fraser talk both about the Korean influence buying Scandal and about human rights in general as chairman of the House International Organization subcommittee Fraser held over 100 hearings on human rights concerning more than 30 Nations around the world Fraser says that no country including the United States is free from violations of human rights the origin of the human rights movements at least since World War Two. I think begins with the adoption of the United Nations Charter. The charter is a human rights document. If you read it, it's filled with statements talking about the rights of people have the rights to be governed properly and rights that derive from the fact that this International agreement is treaty this Charter specifically referred to human rights as an objective of international policy. In fact, there was discussion at the time that the human that the UN Charter was adopted of writing in a Bill of Rights just as we did by Amendment to the United States Constitution, but that was rejected in favor of creating a commission on human rights and having them write a declaration. So indeed, that's what happened in the 1948. We adopted the universal Declaration of Human Rights and that remains the foremost document in the world despite the fact that it's not a treaty or convention, but simply a declaration of the general assembly of the United Nations. And so we observe the 30th Anniversary this year of that adoption by the United Nations General Assembly after that Declaration was adopted it was contemplated that it would be implemented by specific covenants and treaties and we've had a series of those written the two most important deal with civil and political rights on the one hand economic and social rights on the other and these are two of the covenants that President Carter has signed now since he's become president the United States and is urging the Senate to ratify. Well, that was the international side. We've had a proliferation of treaties and conventions in the human rights field and although the United States played an important role in these International efforts. Human rights has not been a major concern and so far as United States bilateral policy is concerned really since World War Two. I think it was a trauma of Vietnam that motivated members of Congress to take a fresh. Look at American policy and to see just what it was that we were doing in the human rights field. But it wasn't just Vietnam alone. It was a realization that the United States have been actively involved in assisting repressive regimes for example some years ago. I was in Athens during the time of the military Junta and I remember being in an apartment of one of the opponents of the regime and being shown a picture of United States tanks out on the streets of Athens there in order to put down a student protest against the military Junta a protest which had taken place at the Polytechnic Institute. And then there's chili we came to realize finally that we had a secret Undeclared economic war against Chile against the agenda regime and that led to a military takeover and when they military Junta took office suddenly the food Aid to Chile Rose sharply than for a while. They were getting 80% of all of the food Aid to Latin America. We began to give the military Junta of support of all. At a time when they were detaining torturing and killing their political opponents. But other instances could be cited the new awareness of the United States involvement in plans to assassinate foreign leaders of the military and economic support. We've been giving to the martial law regime in the Philippines our continued support for Korea after the dismantling of his Democratic institutions in the early 70s. And so these were some of the new awareness has which led Congress and I think many in the American public to raise the question of what was the United States policy with respect to the way people were treated by their governments. What business does the United States have to instruct others on human rights practices? Let me give you one critique which helps to frame this issue after President Carter gave a speech on human rights at the United Nations in 1977. The Washington Post wrote an editorial which they said the following. They said President Carter seemed determined to play the role of world profit in human rights. It suits the spirits and political Taste of many Americans and it obviously suits the president's he was in full throat the other evening declaring the because the other members had signed the UN Charter no member could claim the mistreatment of a citizen's is solely its own business. We're not aware that any other president is propounded so bold and sweeping a rationale for interference in other nations Internal Affairs for that. Of course for that is of course what it is, the Messianic component in American foreign policy is not been stated. So purely since Woodrow Wilson's time. Well, this is just one example of the concern that many people have that are human rights policy is nothing but a misguided interference in the internal affairs of other (00:05:28) nations. (00:05:30) so they say by what Authority are we injecting ourselves into these (00:05:33) issues (00:05:35) and it's true that in the United Nations Charter and Article 2 Section 7 one nation is expressly prohibited from interfering in the internal affairs of another Nation. However, the charter doesn't stop with that provision. It goes on in article 55 to say that the United Nations shall promote Universal respect for and observance of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race sex language or religion and the next article article 56 goes on to say that all members pledged themselves to take Joint and separate action in cooperation with the organization's for the achievement of the purpose of set forth in article 55. So under the UN Charter it is made the business of every nation to promote Universal respect for human rights. The problem however, is that human rights may be used by States as a pretext for advancing their own political or ideological interests? Now I'll although human rights can rarely be used as a justification for intervening in another country's Affairs in a military way. Nonetheless, we did interview. We did justify intervention in Vietnam in part on human rights grounds. One of the rationales were used in Vietnam was that if we could prevent the Takeover of a communist government? We would prevent the Takeover by a government that would operate in derogation of the basic rights of the people of Vietnam moreover. The whole Cold War posture was defended in large part on the human rights concept while I think that the ultimate root of the Cold War lay in a fear of a shift in the balance of power among nations in the world. Nonetheless our struggle during the Cold War period was defined in India logical (00:07:34) terms and the (00:07:36) Fate that might befall people who came under the control of the Communist regimes was made a central point in the debate over the problem of Communism in the world. And so although the UN Charter gives us a right to be concerned about human rights. It really doesn't tell us whether on the because of our concern for human rights. We ought to be engaged in the Cold War. We ought to be involved in Vietnam or we shouldn't be involved in. Goldwater Vietnam, in other words, it really doesn't give us much policy guidance. Well now what is Congress done about human rights? Well beginning in 1973. We've held a large number of hearings on human rights problems, which covered the situations in over 40 countries of the world in 1974. Our subcommittee reported that the United States ought to elevate human rights as a concern in American foreign (00:08:32) policy (00:08:34) that was followed by legislative action by Congress considering what legislative action to take it seemed clear that we couldn't Force the executive branch to support human rights all over the world irrespective of what rights were involved because there were simply too many rights enumerated in the various international human rights documents. (00:08:55) There isn't a single (00:08:57) country in the world. That isn't violating some human rights Provisions that have been established in the International Community. In some countries many of the human rights standards are being violated. And so we decided in looking a congressional action that we ought to concentrate on those standards, which have the broadest acceptance across the world and which the violation of which evoked the strongest combin condemnation violations such as torture summary execution or other cruel and inhuman treatment. And so the first decision we made in the Congress was to limit ourselves to the most fundamental rights. The second was to concern ourselves principally with military assistance as being the most directly related to a governments of policy and the policy of repression. We thought that military aid to a government which was imposing torture on its citizens was simply wrong on its face. Military aid enhance the power that government to stay in control and to impose its will in these unfortunate terms and So based on these principles we came up with this statutory language. We said that military assistance our sales should be terminated two governments, which are guilty of a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights when these were very carefully chosen words consistent pattern would exclude situations, which were just episodic or transitory gross violations. We defined as meaning torture cruel in the art and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment prolonged detention without charges or other flagrant denials of the right to life liberty and the security of the person Now these words were taken largely out of the universal Declaration of Human Rights which were celebrating this week and they're categorized generally as rights involving the Integrity of the person and finally we said that we wanted to deal with internationally recognized human rights to make it clear that we weren't attempting to impose simply United State Standards. And then having written that into the law we created an exception. He always have to create exceptions for the executive branch. And so the exception was in the words. We used we said except under extraordinary circumstances. Once we wrote that language into the law. We might as well. I've opened the barn door let the horses out right there because under the Nixon Ford administration's they largely disregarded the statutory language, which we had put into our law. Now with respect to economic aid at the initiative Congressman Tom Harkin of our neighboring state of Iowa. We impose similar restrictions, but instead of having the loophole of extraordinary circumstances, we said that if the need aid went to the needy people if the aid directly benefited the needy people it could continue to a regime which was violating these (00:12:10) standards. (00:12:13) We also recommended The Creation in the Department of State of a coordinator for humanitarian Affairs and human rights, and we require that every year. The administration report to the Congress on the human rights status of every country to whom we were giving security assistance. This has had quite an impact the United States today. Is giving a report card on human rights on over a hundred countries were saying what we think about human rights conditions in Brazil, Chile Korea and a lot of other countries. I think this is one of the best things we've done as Congress has attempted to inject human rights standards into our public policy, but the state department doesn't like it very much. They see it is very awkward. They don't like to be critical of governments with whom they have a variety of relationships. But the problem we faced was that because so much of our human rights effort is at the private diplomatic level. This report that we require the department is one of the few ways we can get a window on what the state department really thinks about other countries. Otherwise, everything is done by cable marked confidential we never get a picture of what's really (00:13:31) happening. (00:13:37) What's happened with these reports is that the first one was very relatively Bland the second annual report on countries getting United States. Aid is considerably better and we're hopeful that those reports will continue to improve unless the administration succeeds in getting that provision of the law repealed a Congress has acted on other special human rights problems. The jackson-vanik is perhaps one of the better-known we attach conditions through the jackson-vanik amendment to the granting of non-discriminatory trade terms to communist countries, and we said that unless they permitted the free immigration of people we weren't going to give them the most favored nation trade status or any commercial credits. We've also had a series of specific country prohibitions legislative by Congress and here what happens is that the conservatives have their favorite countries and the Liberals have another list and so the conservative members of cut Aid to leftist countries such as Mozambique Angola and bhutia Vietnam and lat Laos. The Liberals have targeted their efforts on countries like the Philippines Argentina, Chile and Brazil. I don't think this is a very good thing for Congress to be doing. I think we ought to write the general human rights standards and then leave it to the executive branch to oversee and to implement. The executive branch has responded necessary spotted, especially under the Carter Administration. They now have a human rights officer in each of the regional bureaus. They have an assistant legal advisor now on human rights, they've established a coordinator for human rights and humanitarian Affairs who's now elevated to the status of an assistant (00:15:24) secretary. (00:15:26) Under President Carter. They formed an interagency task force to deal with the economic aid questions in relation to Human Rights. And we've had several major speeches by President Carter and secretary bands on the human rights problem. We've had the president sign and send to the senate for ratification a number of the international treaties and Covenants dealing with human (00:15:48) rights. (00:15:52) Executive branch has reduced Aid to a number of countries because of human rights violations and there have been numerous diplomatic initiatives at the bilateral level. I make this point because I want to underscore the fact that the Carter Administration is serious about its Human Rights Campaign. For example Last spring the did the Dominican Republic had an election and the military threatened to move in. As soon as the administration in Washington learned about that, they move very quickly to express their very firm and strong support for the outcome of that election. Finally, let me touch on what the UN is doing the EU the UN besides having the charter which is a human rights document as a number of bodies which deal with human rights issues including the commission on human rights the commission on the status of women, the sub-commission and discrimination and minorities the economic and social Council and the general assembly itself. One has to recognize that the UN is not an effective form to address human rights questions because Nations which themselves are guilty of human rights violations are very hesitant to accuse others of violations. It's the old saying that if you live in a glass house, you should be very slow to throw any Stones. One of the most effective agencies is the International Labour Organization. They use the technique of sending teams of experts in two countries to observe the enforcement of the covenants and treaties dealing with labor conditions. And this is proven to be unusually effective. One of the problems here. However, is that the United States is temporarily withdrawn from the ILO. Now among the Region's Western Europe has the most effective human rights Machinery under the Council of Europe. There's both a human rights court and the Human Rights Commission. I was in Strasbourg a couple of years ago in the courtroom of the human rights Court listening to the case of an Austrian citizen who sued his own government on the grounds of being deprived of human his human rights. The court had ruled for him. And was in the process of fixing damages. It's the same European Machinery that investigated the problems of torture occurring in Greece under the military Junta and we have the inter-american commission on human rights, which has been operating for a number of years that commission will now be strengthened under the new inter-american convention on human rights, which has recently gone into Force. Although the United States is not signed it. Well, why is it in our national interest to pursue human rights issues first? I think that American foreign policy has to reflect basic American values. The United States has historically stood as a Beacon of Hope for oppressed people all around the world as an example of a free people running their government in a reasonably civilized and sensible way (00:19:08) if our foreign (00:19:09) policy is incompatible with what we do here at home and how we see ourselves. It lessens the impact that we're going to have across the world community. Second in my judgment human rights violations are a symptom of malfunctioning societies the government's which flagrantly violate human rights are governments which are likely to get into more trouble which may in turn affect our interests. Iran today in my judgment is a good example. It's been a hotbed of human rights violations. But we've downgraded our human rights concerns in Iran because we've had other economic and security interests, but now the protests occurring in Iran are threatening the oil supply and so that even from a pragmatic point of view we can no longer ignore the human rights problems in that country and third human rights violations are a source of international conflict. The cases are abundant whether you take the treatment of the Greek cypriots toward the Turkish cypriots, and then the ensuing Invasion by turkey. Are the claims of the Palestinians for self-determination you can take many other examples because history discloses that human rights violations both real and imagined. I've been major causes of international (00:20:31) conflict, but (00:20:32) perhaps more important than any other reason Is that a world which respects human rights will be a more hospitable environment for the preservation of American values (00:20:45) a (00:20:45) government which is decent to its own people is far more likely to be a decent neighbor than one which is not in Korea is a good case in point my subcommittee discovered that Korea had exported as authoritarianism to the United States. It was threatening Koreans here both citizens and permanent residents with all kinds of Retribution if they spoke critically of President Park chung-hee of South Korea. The kcia tried to put out a business several newspapers that were published in the United States. It takes an authoritarian government to believe that what it does at home can be exported to other countries on the other hand. We have little reason to fear these kinds of activities from a democratic Nation. What are the most sensible ways to deal with human rights violations as we observe them in other countries? I think it's clear that International mechanisms are the best way to go if they're available, but for obvious reasons, they usually don't work very well. And so the next best way is what I call non-confrontational diplomacy. We have to keep reminding ourselves that we were we've not been ordained to instruct others in better. Moral Behavior. We have no Divine mandate to tell others how to run their Affairs. What we ought to do is to respond to a genuine sense of compassion when people are being mistreated. It's a matter of simple decency that we ought to do what we can to alleviate those conditions now usually the most appropriate tactic is that of dissociation we say to the Philippines or to Chile or to the Soviet Union, we're not going to tell you how to run your country. That's your problem. But we have the right to Define our relations with you. Under the circumstances that Prevail we would say to them. We're unable to persuade the American people the Congress or ourselves that your human rights violations are Justified and therefore our relations with you are going to be restricted. For example, we may not be able to continue that with programs of military assistance. I like that approach best because it doesn't presume that we know how to instruct them is simply says that under the circumstances that Prevail we don't want to be closely associated with what they're doing. Now. This may be a semantic difference, but I think it's an important (00:23:14) one. I do (00:23:17) however stop at the point of what I call normal commercial and diplomatic relations with any country absent some compelling circumstances. I think that ordinary commercial trade and diplomatic exchanges are recognition ought to continue no matter how bad a country is. (00:23:39) Unless (00:23:41) the International Community has voted sanctions as in the case of Uganda. I should say Rhodesia or unless the violations are so outrageous that we feel compelled to do anything we can as in the case of Uganda, (00:23:55) but perhaps the most (00:23:55) effective way for the United States to promote human rights is to give support to those countries, which are actually bent on improving the human rights of their own people. And this be whether the rights were talking about our economic and social or civil and political or both. Advantage of that position is that we don't have to claim any credit for making a change in another country. We can't be accused of intervention but we say that when a country on its own starts down the road toward improved treatment of its people then we will get in behind that country and give them as much support as we're able to now countries like Spain Portugal and India are countries that in the last few years have made a mark turn in the road and are now going down the Democratic track ought to be given giving them very strong support. Let me turn to the role of non-governmental organizations. They're a terribly part important part of this human rights (00:24:58) effort, (00:24:59) the international Commission of jurists, the international league for human rights and Amnesty International or perhaps the most significant of these organizations amnesty is especially effective and I'm delighted that the chapters being formed here at the University of Luth. Most of you are probably familiar with the way amnesty works, but let me just describe it again amnesty Works through community-based groups and each group adopts three prisoners of conscience one from the first world one from the second world in one for the third world and then they do everything in their power to try to get those prisoners loose and they often succeed. Finally, what are the prospects for the future of our new human rights policy. I frankly think that they're uncertain the practitioners of realpolitik. These are the hard-nosed pragmatists who like to deal in power balances have very little time for the human rights Endeavors of this Administration and sometimes our human rights Interest come in conflict with our economic interests a case in point within the last few months was when we held up some guarantees and some generators from Allis-Chalmers for sale to Argentina that government has a bad human rights record, (00:26:18) but the (00:26:18) government the government's got busy here and talk to (00:26:21) Congress. (00:26:24) And so Congress ended up saying well, what is what have generators got to do with human rights? Moreover they some of these members of Congress said it's costing Americans jobs. And so as a result of this pressure, finally, the guarantees went forward, although in the process. We got some new commitments on the Argentine government. But this illustrates the fragility of the human rights concern the moment you put that concern in opposition to other interests that may appear to be more urgent or more immediate. The other part of the problem is that we can't really take credit for human rights advances because when we do it tends to be destructive if in a particular country, they do let political prisoners out of jail or they do improve their due process procedures or they do enter the use of torture. The United States really is restricted from taking credit because the moment we do so the government is embarrassed and it'll be the last time they follow the private initiatives undertaken by the administration and so one has to ask how long will it Administration following human rights policy when it is unable to take credit for the beneficial results, which may flow from this. This has not been a problem so far for this Administration, but I think it is a risk that we face down the road. What we need is a long-term steady and persistent commitment to advance the cause of Human Rights. We need to think in terms of decades for progress and that it seems to me is the way to go and I'm convinced that if we go that way that over time the United States will not only feel better about itself, but it will actually see real progress made in the world. I want to conclude with a few words on the Korean investigation, but I want to pose the question first. How did we become or how did I become so interested in Korea? I guess my interest in Korea outside of some human rights hearings we held in 1974 was deepened as a result of a trip which I made to Seoul early in 1975 there. We spoke with the number of people who either been the victims of repression or who are deeply concerned about it including people like Kim dae-jung former president young Posen foreign foreign minister Chung milk long and a number of others some of you may be familiar with the name of the pork kimchi ha We asked to see him he's been in detention now for must be almost a decade, but we were not able to do so. But two things happened on that trip, which I found especially disturbing first. We'd hope to speak to some of the students who claimed that they had been tortured while they were under detention by the South Korean government. We found when we arrived in Seoul that all of these students have been invited on a non-voluntary tour of the Countryside by the kcia. That tour continued as long as we were in Korea. Second we scheduled a meeting at the home of one of the officers the American Embassy with some former members of the National Assembly of Korea who claimed they had been tortured while they were detained several years earlier. And when we arrived at the home of the American official we were told at the kcia was physically restraining these former assemblyman in their homes and preventing them to coming to this meeting. We wanted to see that for ourselves. So we got into a car. I say we I was with a team from amnesty a British Barrister and a medical doctor from Denmark. We got into an automobile and we went over to the home of one of these former assemblyman a general in the Korean army or former General who had fought with United States in the Korean War. (00:30:14) When we (00:30:14) got to their home sure enough, there were four or five men standing outside in front. They hadn't expected as we walked right in and we sat down and had a visit with a general. I remember his first words were this is no longer the country that fought for the United States in the Korean War. These very heavy-handed efforts to brew in contact with Korean citizens bothered me greatly because at the same time that the government was seeking to prevent us from talking to people who are not in jail. We were expected to vote economic and military aid to the same government. So that led us into a an even deeper investigation into Korea and two South Korean human rights problems in the course of subsequent hearings in June of 1975. We secured testimony from a former Embassy official in the Korean Embassy who outlined a nine-point plan much of it illegal, which the embassy was implementing to influence United States policy. He's the one that told us that he'd seen the Ambassador stuffing Money into envelopes and then into a briefcase headed to Capitol Hill. Presumably to make payments to members of Congress. We wrote a letter to the attorney general requesting the Department of Justice (00:31:34) investigate (00:31:36) at the same time that we heard that testimony. We began hearing reports about KCI activity in the United States directed against Korean Americans who are critical of Park chung-hee. (00:31:48) If (00:31:49) those reports were true. It meant that President Park was beginning to explore his authoritarian rule of the United States. So my subcommittee began an investigation into these allegations and held five hearings in 1976 on KCI activity. Well, then the newspapers began reporting about the investigation and Thompson Park. We finally got into a full-scale investigation with a number of professionals which ended only last (00:32:16) October. (00:32:19) What was the significance of the report which we finally published. We think the report that we made on Korean American relations had value because it traces the history of these relations over the last several decades it puts into context the allegations of improper activities in the United States over the last six years. It clearly demonstrates that there was an organized Republic of Korea Government effort to influence United States opinion in many fields. What did the report add up to is the story of an ally one that the United States has invested more in than in any other nation in the world in both lives and money becoming nervous about the American commitment to a sister and later becoming even more nervous about American reaction to the dismantling of democratic institutions. This led to efforts to influence Congress the Korean community in the United States and the academic Community partly by illegal or improper (00:33:17) means it's a (00:33:19) story about corruption. It's also a story about economic success in South Korea. It's a story about the moon organization's interest in forming a world government and about the Easy Flow of large sums of cash and Personnel across National borders and between nonprofit and business ventures. It's a story about Korea's interest in becoming a new arms supplier in the world. It's also a story about bureaucratic rigidity and ineptness in our own government in dealing with the first concrete proof of illegal Korean government activities. What it all adds up to is the need for increased vigilance by the United States government in dealing with authoritarian governments, which have a vested interest in United States policy. It also adds up to the need for increased bigger and looking at violations of law by persons and organizations, which may be serving the interests of a of another Nation. It also adds up to the need to examine the consequences which may flow from adding another arm supplier to the arm suppliers that serve the world community. We've referred a lot of our findings and recommendations to the various Committees of Congress and to the executive branch. It's our hope that they're going to vigorously follow this up (00:34:37) and (00:34:38) and come to the appropriate final action. I'd like to just conclude by a note on my own estimate of the future of American Korean relations. I want to point out first that I don't think that these investigations that have been going on basically altar. The long-term interest either of South Korea or the United States and thus won't basically affect the relationships which we have. I do believe however that within the American public there is considerably less enthusiasm for coming to the defense of South Korea (00:35:17) in the event which is (00:35:18) should be subjected to military attack. The government of South Korea is widely admired for its economic progress, but it's not admired for the authoritarian rule which is imposed upon its own people. I didn't favor President Carter's decision to withdraw troops from South Korea at the time. He made it. Alright hope that by leaving American troops there and by vigorous diplomacy, we could persuade the park government to change its internal political and human rights policies. I fear that with the decision to withdraw American troops were only going to see sustained even intensified authoritarian rule in South Korea with very little leverage to change the ultimately, of course, the risk is to the people of South Korea themselves. It's their country and it's for them too. German how they want to live and be governed but under present procedures the people of South Korea can't express their will freely and this could someday lead to uncontrolled events which might encourage North Korea to invade the South and that would be the ultimate tragedy for everyone involved. Well both my visit to Korea in my opportunity to work with many Koreans in the course of our investigation left me with profound admiration for the Korean people. I'd like to see Korea succeed both economically and politically And my hope is as we said in our report that over the coming years the conflicts which we haven't created a and may have tomorrow will give way over time to the kind of mature relationships, which we enjoy with the industrial democracies of the (00:36:59) world. Well, (00:37:03) that's my view of the state of Human (00:37:05) Rights (00:37:07) both in American foreign policy. And in relation to South Korea. Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you today Fifth District Congressman Donald Fraser speaking to a group at the University of Minnesota Duluth on human rights. I'm Alan Cyril.