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SCOTT SULLIVAN - 28 giugno 1993
Do the Right Thing
But U.N. delegates can't quite agree what that is

The United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, which opened in Vienna last week, is an encyclopedic indictment of man's inhumanity to man - and to women and children as well. Some 3,000 activists from 900 nongovernmental organizations have flocked to the Austrian capital to bear witness to rape and torture, exploitation and disenfranchisement, the muzzling of individuals and the enslavement of whole peoples from Bosnia to Kashmir.

Newsweek have published a photo of the demonstration of Radical Party's delegation outside the Conference hall in Vienna.

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by SCOTT SULLIVAN - Newswekk

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ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY BY THE YEAR 2000

DON'T BUY CHILDREN'S BLOOD!

In the lobby, Native Americans in beads and feathers perform a boisterous rain dance among the dark suited diplomats. Outside, a platoon of Kurdish hunger strikers huddles on the ground in blankets. And there are signs everywhere. Robert Kunst from Miami Beach, cochair of Shalom International, wears a giant sandwich board calling for a boycott of Germany for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY THEN AND NOW. Inside the meeting hall, Jimmy Carter blames "mostly the countries of the North" for the growing divide between rich and poor nations.

Whatever else it may be, the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights, which opened in Vienna last week, is an encyclopedic indictment of man's inhumanity to man -and to women and children as well. Some 3,000 activists from 900 nongovernmental organizations have flocked to the Austrian capital to bear witness to rape and torture, exploitation and disenfranchisement, the muzzling of individuals and the enslavement of whole peoples from Bosnia to Kashmir. In a thousand photocopied tracts and hundreds of ghastly photos of the wounded and maimed, the NGOs portray a world of abuse. Humanrights activists want the conference to establish global standards by which the United Nations could judge the conduct of all governments. The odds, though, are heavy that it won't do much by its June 25 close.

In the opening days, delegates heard more than 60 speeches from ambassadors, ministers and presidents, all extolling human rights. But the unanimity was scarcely skin deep. Behind the rhetoric lay deep divisions between nations and cultures over what "human rights" really are. Under pressure from China, for example, the delegates banned the Dalai Lama from the podlum and refused to accept an NGO representative on their drafting committee. Indeed, the 50 page draft of the meeting's final document contained full paragraphs set off in brackets-passages on which high officials who met last month to hammer out an agreement had failed to find common ground. Outside the meeting hall, the mood was so bleak that some leading rights groups said the best possible outcome would be no agreement at all.

FREE KIM SUN MYUNG, POLITICAL PRISONER FOR 43 YEARS

WAR CRIMES TRIAL FOR SADDAM AND HIS GANG

The widest gulf separated the West from a coalition of Asian nations headed by China, Indonesia and Malaysia, which argued that the idea of human rights in "a Western invention." The same group of nations, backed by many in Africa and Latin America, insisted that "the right to development"-or in other words, economic growth- should take precedence over such "bourgeois rights" as free speech.

As a matter of history, the prevalent concept of human rights is in fact a creation of Western culture. The Judeo Christian tradition, the Enlightenment of the 18th century, the American Bill of Rights and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man all root human rights in the individual, not society. They declare those rights to be both universal and inalienable. In 1948 the United Nations adopted the same body of thought in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which underpins all its human rights activities ever since, including the current Vienna conference.

Double standard: The world and the United Nations have changed radically in 45 years. A hundred new, mostly poor nations have sprung up and now hold a majority in the world organization. Many are ruled by authoritarian regimes that justify censorship and harsh police tactics on security grounde. Others invoke religion or tradition to sanction practices that most Westerners find repugnant: purdah, female circumcision, full time child labor, the mutilation of thieves and the death by stoning of adulterers. (In rebuttal, some Third Worlders charge the West with applying a double standard. They point to the fact that many American states still apply the death penalty, for example.)

STOP RAPE! SAVE KASHMIR FROM INDIAN TERRORISM

FACE THE FACT--ABORTION KILLS BABIES

March, an Asian regional meeting to prepare the Vienna conference endorsed human rights, but with a big loophole:

" bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities." The same meeting assigned primary responsibility for rights enforcement to "states" rather than the United Nations. And in Vienna itself, the Chinese led coalition is fighting phrase by phrase and comma by comma to impose its views.

Till now, Western nations, led by the United States, have battled to retain the universality and primacy of human rights in the 1948 version. Last week U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher warned against letting "cultural relativism become the last refuge of repression." But the Clinton administration, eager to rewrite Republican policy and to court Third World favor, has edged away from strict constructionism by recognizing the right to economic development as part of a "seamless web" including civil and political rights. The United States and its allies also favorstrengthening U.N. enforcement powers, particularly the creation of a special U.N. High Commission for Human Rights.

WANTED: RADOVAN KARADZIC FOR MASS RAPE AND MURDER IN BOSNIA

CUBAN GAYS AND LESBIANS PROTEST CASTRO'S REPRESSION OF HOMOSEXUALS

Human rights optimists point to some gains over the past few years, particularly the spreading recognition that women and children need special protection. Among the few bracket free chapters in the proposed final document are those dealing with "gender specific" and "age specific" rights. In fact, the mushrooming of the rights oriented NGOs now 80 much in evidence in Vienna can be seen as an achievement in itself. Self righteous and often onesided as they are, they side with the world's victims as no one else can or will.

Under siege: Still, the prospects for aggressive U.N. enforcement of human rights remains dim. Even if all members of the world community can finally agree on the definition of the rights they want to protect, it is not clear that they have the means, or the political will, to do so. Last week Haris Siladzic, foreign minister of Bosnia, addressed the conference, describing in detail the suffering of the besieged Muslim town of Gorazde. " So long as Gorazde remains under siege," he said, "you have no right to speak of human rights." Whereupon the embarrassed conference voted to bring the matter urgently to the attention of the Security Council in New York. Once again.

 
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