Clinton Rapped on Human Rights: Abuses in Africa, Middle East Called Foreign Policy `Blind Spots'

Article excerpt

A leading international human rights organization criticized the Clinton administration yesterday for turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in large areas of the world over the past year.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth told reporters, "We call on the Clinton administration to carry out enforcement of human rights around the world."

"The Clinton administration's efforts to promote human rights around the world were subject to large blind spots," the organization said in its 1999 report. "Major parts of Africa, the Middle East and the former Soviet Union never made it to the administration's human rights agenda."

"Ironically, in light of its long-stated commitment to upholding human rights at home and in its foreign policy, the U.S. government today poses a threat to the universality of human rights," the report said. ". . . Human rights concerns rarely ranked with the administration's other interests."

The New York-based body is the largest U.S. human rights organization. Its 506-page report described human rights conditions in 68 countries, which represents 70 percent of the global population. It also analyzed U.S., European and U.N. responses to those abuses.

Mr. Roth appeared to take for granted that the United States should act as the moral policeman and arbiter of human rights around the world. He attacked the U.S. government for failing to sufficiently condemn abuses, including genocide, in other countries.

He joined the chorus of human rights critics attacking the administration for not taking more energetic action to support the extradition of former Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet from Britain to Spain, where he faces charges of genocide, terrorism and torture.

"Pinochet's arrest makes a very nice 50th anniversary present," for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will mark its birthday Dec. 10, Mr. Roth said.

The Human Rights Watch report condemned U.S. opposition to treaties that would ban land mines, prohibit military conscription of anyone younger than 18 and set up an International Court of Justice.

Mr. Roth said in an introduction to the report that governments could no longer ignore criticism of their human rights records, as they did 50 years ago.

But the report also documented a pattern of governments around the world continuing to carry out genocidal massacres, systematic intimidation and torture and denial of basic democratic freedoms on their populations. …