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U.S. must not abandon its human rights stand



Published: Tue, May 8, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Just because some backwater nations joined forces in ousting the United States from the 53-member U.N. Commission on Human Rights does not mean the world's only superpower has lost its moral authority to speak out against the harm being done to millions of people around the globe.

Indeed, the fact that China and Cuba, the leading human rights violators, gloated over the United States' ouster suggests to us that this nation's willingness to champion the cause of the victims had put it at odds with governments that sanction such criminal behavior.

That is why President Bush, a Republican, must reaffirm the United States' commitment to human rights and adopt the policies developed by former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat. This is not a partisan issue.

By ousting the United States and admitting Sudan, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights showed that it has become nothing more than window dressing. Sudan's Islamic government has led a campaign against Christians and believers of traditional Sudanese religions and is responsible for the 2 million people killed during an 18-year civil war.

In the words of Secretary of State Colin Powell, "That should send one very, very scary, shocking message."

Slaves: According to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, more than 12,000 Sudanese are held as slaves.

Yet representatives of this reprehensible government will be sitting in judgment of other nations that share their attitudes.

The U.S. has been a member of the Human Rights Commission since it was established in 1947, with Eleanor Roosevelt serving as its first chairman. Through the years, the panel has closely monitored reports of violations around the world and has issued an annual report listing those countries with the worst record. It should come as no surprise that Cuba, China and Sudan aren't paragons of virtue.

But while we are harsh in our criticism of last week's decision to deprive this nation of a seat on the human rights commission, we are not prepared to embrace the growing skepticism on Capitol Hill toward the United Nations. We have long supported the world organization in the belief that a forum is needed in which countries can resolve disputes and such intractable problems as poverty can be discussed and, hopefully, solved.

Dues: We do not support calls in Congress to retaliate by cutting nearly $600 million in back U.N. dues. That would only serve to reinforce the belief among our enemies and even some of our allies that this country has adopted a "my way or no way" policy toward the rest of the world.




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