Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Feeble Strategy on Human Rights

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Feeble Strategy on Human Rights

Article excerpt

Lucky for John Shattuck, head of the State Department's Human Rights Office, the theme of the evening was set: the plight of women and children who are victims of human rights abusers. The occasion, at the Italian Embassy, was the first Amnesty International award, named after Ginetta Sagan, the Italian Resistance heroine.

The winner was a small, bright-eyed woman named Mangala Sharma, who founded an organization to help her sister refugees of her native Bhutan - victims, like herself, of political violence and repression.

Shattuck's personal commitment to human rights is not in question - he was once a member of the board of Amnesty International - although the Clinton administration's is. But Shattuck's instructions left him free to talk about women's rights, to which Hillary Rodham Clinton is strongly committed. He could even brag about the "integration" of women's rights into the human rights movement and avoid entirely the subject of China, the world's worst violator. Human rights activists don't have the heart to criticize Shattuck. They are fond of him. Behind his back they say the best thing he could do for the oppressed of the world is to resign, maybe shaming Bill Clinton into the kind of militancy he promised when he ran for president in 1992. China was much on people's minds. The night before, the activists had all gathered at the New York Public Library to pay homage to China's most famous political prisoner, Wei Jingsheng, an eloquent and valiant dissident who is spending his 17th year in jail for advocating democracy. China has been peppered with pleas from world leaders to let him go, with the usual results. China ignores them. Wei has been given honors - the Robert Kennedy Human Rights Award, the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the Olof Palme Award of the European Parliament. Shattuck saw Wei during the six-month interval between his first sentence in 1979 and his second in 1994, and this was held against Wei. Two members of Congress at the embassy reception - one from the left, one from the right - Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Dana Rohrabacher, told Shattuck that the Clinton strategy of decoupling trade from human rights was obviously not working. …

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