U.S. blocking progress, rights group charges Washington drags feet on 3 issues, it contends

December 05, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration this year has "actively obstructed" human rights efforts as well as new mechanisms to enforce internationally accepted standards, according to a highly critical report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch.

The report says U.S. actions particularly have been hurtful on three issues now on the front line of the global human rights campaign: child soldiers, land mines and an international criminal court.

The U.S. practice of ignoring human rights in some areas and adopting a "selective" commitment based on economic convenience or strategic interests in others poses "a growing threat" to human rights in key parts of the world, most vividly in China and Central Africa, it charges.

The independent monitoring group based in New York called on other countries to move ahead without the United States.

"U.S. arrogance suggests that in Washington's view, human rights standards should be embraced only if they codify what the U.S. government already does, not what the United States ought to achieve," the report concludes.

The State Department had no response to specific charges, but a spokesman, James Rubin, disputed its tone and conclusions, saying: "I think that if you look around the world and you ask the people of the world which nation they look to as to be the beacon for human rights, democracy, and freedom, there's no question the answer will be the United States."

America is one of only two countries not to have ratified the international Convention on Rights of the Child, endorsed by 191 governments. U.S. conservatives fear the convention will usurp parental authority and increase government control over child-rearing issues.

But as a result of this opposition, America also has not formally accepted the aspect of the convention that bans use of soldiers younger than 18.

On mines, the United States tried to "weaken" an international treaty with "loopholes and exceptions," Human Rights Watch asserted.

The United States insists it cannot sign the mine ban unless it exempts the Korean Peninsula, where the United States and its allies contend the devices are an integral part of the defense of South Korea, some of whose most populous areas could quickly be overrun in an invasion from the North.

On an international criminal court, the United States has fought for "restrictions" that would limit a new system designed to investigate and prosecute genocide, war crimes and other crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch says.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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