Clinton's Foreign Policy Brings New Emphasis to Human Rights

Article excerpt

DURING the presidential campaign, Bill Clinton positioned himself as a champion of human rights abroad, promising to crack down on abuses in Bosnia and Haiti.

President Clinton hasn't lived up to all that rhetoric, but nevertheless, analysts say, his administration is putting more emphasis on human rights in the conduct of United States foreign policy than its Republican predecessors did.

"There will be an incremental change in the importance of human rights in US foreign policy - there is some evidence of it already," a senior State Department official says. "We will approach the problem of human rights more coherently than the last administration."

The new emphasis on human rights is, in part, a product of the appointments Mr. Clinton has been making to foreign-policy posts. For instance, the nominee for assistant secretary of state for human rights is John Shattuck, formerly an official with Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Another former ACLU leader, Morton Halperin, is set to become an assistant secretary of defense.

Among the administration's early actions on the human-rights front:

* China: The Clinton administration will link renewal of China's most-favored-nation trading status to improvements in its human-rights record - a step President Bush opposed.

* Peru: "We told Peru in the past 10 weeks they would not get International Monetary Fund aid unless they allowed the Red Cross to visit the jails. And they did," the State Department official says.

* Nicaragua: The administration recently released $54 million in aid, only after receiving a commitment on return of confiscated property and halting extrajudicial killings of former contra fighters.

* Haiti: Although Clinton backed off from his campaign pledge to allow Haitian boat people into the US, he has put more pressure than his predecessor on Haiti's armed forces to win the return of elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Richard Schifter, US ambassador to the United Nations Humans Rights Commission, says those actions stand in stark contrast to the Bush administration's policy. …