US govt praises Indonesia and Nigeria

Posted by LEE SIEW HUA under Media Watch on 27 February 2000

State Department's report also warns that there is a long way to go before the world adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


WASHINGTON -- Free elections in populous Indonesia and Nigeria last year brought more people under democratic rule than in any year since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the US State Department said in its global report on human rights.

Also encouraging was the international will to act in Kosovo and East Timor, said Mr Harold Koh, the Korean-American Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

He told journalists that the international community's intervention in Kosovo and East Timor demonstrated that it possesses the will and capacity to act when human rights are most threatened.

Despite these brighter signs and the march of globalisation, governments have abused the basic civil, religious and political rights of their people.

Abuses persist on all continents, and are being reported from countries as dissimilar as China, Chechnya and Cuba.

The world has far to go before it adheres to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, said the 6,000-page report covering 194 countries and territories -- the largest review by the US to date.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who released this annual report that Congress requires by law, voiced special concerns about Russia and China, two giants in transition.

First, she repeated the administration's call for the Russian government to launch full investigations into "credible" reports of massacres and other acts of violence against civilians in Chechnya, its breakaway province. She also said the US would continue to speak out for the Chinese who were being systematically denied their rights, but emphasised the need to engage with it substantially.

The administration has focused lately on winning congressional support for China's Permanent Normal Trade Relations status and Mrs Albright made her pitch too, saying:

"Critics suggest that US concerns about China's human rights record should be expressed by denying normal relations on trade. The administration believes that that approach would actually undercut the positive forces at work in China."

The democracy crusader underlined the US position that promoting human rights is an integral party of American foreign policy.

"When governments respect human rights, they contribute to a more stable, just and peaceful world,"she said.

The report carries a generally bleak outlook, as the progress in human rights seems overshadowed by persistent brutality.

The report, which does not rank nations, noted: "Despite the gains in Nigeria and Indonesia, too many authoritarian governments continue to deny basic human rights, including the right to democracy, to their citizens."

While Indonesia, a familiar target, received more praise this time because of its dramatic journey towards democracy, the State Department also highlighted the complicity of the Indonesian military in the East Timor rampage.

Also sobering were these scenarios, the State Department said: "The coup in Pakistan and popular dissatisfaction in Latin America clearly demonstrate that the road to democratic governance is not without its problems and challenges."

The entire report can be assessed at the State Department website

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No mention was given to Singapore's Section in the Human Rights Report. Read it in our Website!

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