On-the-Record Briefing on the Release of "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 - 2005"Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
March 28, 2005
(10:05 a.m. EST)
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Thank you, Madame Secretary. I wanted to just make a couple of remarks about why and how the report is done, and then take your questions.
As the Secretary mentioned, it's mandated by law. This is the third year that the law has been in effect so -- it's a companion piece to the Country Reports on Human Rights, which we've been doing for about 30 years and we rolled out a month or so ago. Those reports detail what the problems are throughout the world. This report tries to deal with what we're doing about it and what we, the United States writ large, the various agencies that work the problem.
By the statute, we are required to deal with countries that have specific kinds of problems or sometimes, the worst problems. So it's a combination -- sometimes you'll see in here countries that are fairly well-established democracies, but have a particular type of problem like extra-judicial killings going on in part of their country that they haven't been able to get a handle on. Others are ones that we would more traditionally think of as countries where human rights are violated in their totality, the North Koreas of the world and so on.
But what we do -- very much the same process that we use for the Country Reports. It starts with a draft being done in the embassies concerned, comes back to Washington. Oscar DeSoto and our staff in the Office of Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy in DRL edits the report, asks questions, goes back, gathers more information. It's coordinated with USAID and with other bureaus in the department that are active in this area so that we try to get the fullest possible picture of what we're dealing with.
I think as you go through the individual country sections, you'll see at the beginning of each one, the problem in that country is stated in terms that are very much drawn from the summaries of the problems in the Country Reports, but then the rest of it is a description of what we're doing.
And before we get to questions, I'll just say very broadly there's two types of activities that we undertake to try to improve the situation of human rights and democracy in other countries. One is, work with the governments in power. Now, if we've got a government in power that shares our values and respects the rights of its own people and are just trying to strengthen their institutions and so on, that's one kind of situation, and there you try to help them with technical assistance and so on to improve their structures. In other cases, you've got governments that are very reluctant, that are abusing people's rights and feel that they need to do that for their own reasons. And there, we need to push harder, so we're in trying to persuade, we're making linkages with things that they are interested in.
But the other side of the equation, that's the, "How do you deal with the government in power?" side. The other side is, "How do you deal with people in this society who are interested in promotion of democracy in their own countries?" And that is pretty much the same in both cases. It's more difficult in an environment where the government is opposed to it, but we try to reach out. This is a break from the diplomacy of years ago where you only related to the government in power. In every country, we try to reach out to people in opposition parties, in independent media, in nongovernmental organizations in the country. And we try to give them support in the efforts that they're making to improve the situation in their own country. And this can range from inviting them to seminars where people come in and talk.
In many of these countries, it's kind of hard for us to relate to because it's, for us, opposition politics, independent media and so on come so naturally, but in a country that's never seen such things, even when you have the forms of democracy, opposition parties still tend to be organized on a more bureaucratic basis than a mass, "How do you gain the support of your constituency?" Press still is looking for somebody to tell them what is the story they should project.
So we're doing a lot of just basic training in these areas. How do you get training of journalists so they know how to go about investigating the story and not just take the handout that somebody gave them and put that out as the news? How do you show opposition politicians to be able to take and read polling information so they find out what their constituents actually care about? And then how do they go about formulating messages and programs that will be responsive to what their constituents care about?
So it's all this stuff that we kind of take for granted. In many places, you can't take it for granted and you need to help people develop those capacities. But the bottom line there it's development of capacity, of ability, rather than trying to favor one tendency or another. And I think that's very broadly what we try to do in our efforts around the world.
And with that, I'll take questions.
QUESTION: What do you do in countries where you have no access diplomatically at all? I'm thinking of two countries: North Korea and Iran.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay. You can do, and those may be good cases. You first off, you coordinate a lot with allies that do have diplomatic access so that you get some ground truth from them and with NGOs and others who may have connections there. You can do things offshore, quite often, to assist people in those countries. For example, training programs or something, people come out and they're able to go and attend class. Oftentimes, what we're doing is supporting work of people in third countries. This isn't a "Made in America" type of project. So it's tougher in places like that where -- and I'll give you a couple of other examples where we actually have diplomatic representation but it's still difficult, Cuba being one, where all independent press is banned, any kind of independent media is banned, any kind of opposition political activity is banned. So you can't just, as you would in another country, hire a hall and bring in media trainers or something. Very, very difficult.
But in that case, for example, we've -- starting back in the days I was there in Cuba -- funded offshore operations where people are able -- journalists are able to call in their stories and get somebody to type them and put them out on the internet, and then those feed back into Cuba through various means. That's a practical solution to the problem that they don't have the ability to publish internally.
So there's many ways to skin the cat. And oftentimes, it's not us who are developing these ways. What we're looking for are people in the country itself, NGOs who are working with them and so on who have creative ideas and ways around some of these problems, and then we help them accomplish their mission. It's not that we have some cookie cutter that we're developing here.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Earlier you mentioned the question of linkages there, and just to bring up one example, Pakistan. In the report today we read in Pakistan that it still has a poor human rights record, heavy military involvement, inefficient judiciary there and all those abuses --
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yes.
QUESTION: At the same time, on Friday we were told that the United States is willing to send an unlimited number of F-16s to Pakistan. Are we sending mixed messages?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: No, I think it's a question of how, you know, sometimes it's the carrot and sometimes it's the stick with linkages. And sometimes you can say that by being more engaged and helping a government in trying to accomplish some of its aims, that you find it to be more responsive in opening things up. Pakistan is a really difficult case because it's had this alternating history of elected civilian governments, but with such a narrow political base that they didn't -- they -- you know, they would fall into corruption, they would lose the support of the people, the military would intervene. Then you had periods of, you know, authoritarian military rule back to civilian rule.
But that oscillation between a discredited and narrowly based, elitist-type civilian system and military authoritarian system is not what we want to perpetuate. So we're trying to find ways to break out of that syndrome and end up with, you know, with a movement to democracy, but one that is a broader-based democracy. Got a lot of programs going on in Pakistan right now. We’d have even more if -- as the security situation improves.
In other words, this is an environment where even though the government, as the report documents, severe human rights problems, the government is being cooperative in terms of allowing the development of many of these programs that I was discussing, and that's a good thing.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that just one second? So is the United States saying that such programs as the sale of F-16s and other cooperation might be endangered if Pakistan does not follow up on the democratic reforms that's expected of it in the years to come?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I wouldn't make that linkage right here right now, but yeah, in a more general sense, that any country that expects to have good relations with us, whether it's in the security field and/or commercial area or anything else needs to pay attention to their human rights. I know of one big partner that we have where they kept saying, "Well, you used human rights for political purposes." And the response was, "Well, no, it is a political issue, but it's a political issue because people in our country actually care about it. Our relations with you are fine on these other fronts. The reason you're having, you know, difficulties in the overall relationship is precisely because you're not doing enough on human rights."
And I think this is a message -- sometimes, it's hard for somebody who doesn't -- somebody who's in power who doesn't think in those terms to understand just how much human rights and democracy means to the United States and to other parts of the world. They tend to always want to dismiss it as a mask for something else and that's the dirty secret is that it's not a mask. It's in our own interest, our own security interests and so on, to see this proceed and it's also what's right, so that's why we care about it.
QUESTION: You know, when you talk about promoting democracy and reforms -- human rights in the Middle East, you seem to signal out certain countries and ignore others. Two come to mind, Tunisia, which has one of the most repressive systems of government and the worst in terms of treatment of journalists and free expression.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And the other one is Libya. Aren't you afraid that you're going to be accused of a double standard when you're happy to talk about Syria and Iran and ignore Libya and Tunisia?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: No. Actually, we don't ignore Libya and Tunisia. Tunisia -- my former boss, Lorne Craner was out there, I think, a couple of times. We have programs in Tunisia to try to help journalists and so on who are oppressed by the government. The space in that country is very, very limited and we're trying to open it up.
And it's -- with respect with Libya, when we reengaged with the Libyans, yes, there was a big element of getting them to turn over their WMD programs which, I think by anybody's standards, is a good thing that they've given up those programs.
But I will say in the policy-making at the time, part of the benchmarks that they have for improvements in the relationship include human rights issues. It's not just WMD-centric. So when we sit down and we map out how are we going to -- what improvements are we going to offer somebody like Qadhafi, we're looking -- yes, we're looking for progress on the security front that they don't have weapons, that they don't threaten their neighbors, that they stop terrorist attacks or supporting terrorist attacks against others. But the other part of that is we want to see internal reforms too.
Now, they've got a long, long, long way to go, longer than maybe many other countries in the Middle East. And this is where the issue of double standards people always raise. There's a single standard for human rights and a single standard for democracy. You find it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And when we're writing these Country Reports, as I mentioned, we ask exactly the same questions of every country. We don't have different questions for different countries.
Where you see the difference is in terms of where they are on the spectrum. You start from wherever you find that country. You can't just wish that Libya were, you know, up at a higher level. It is where it is. And what you want to see is forward progress. The tools we have to work with vary from country to country. In some cases, you've also got a problem like WMD you're trying to deal with at the same time. In other cases, you've got, you know, terrorism issues or something you're trying to deal with at the same time.
And that doesn't mean they cancel each other out. You need to engage on both fronts at the same time, but your access, your ability -- whether you've got diplomatic representation or not, all have influence on what's possible and what isn't, but the effort is always to look for what is it we can do. Are there linkages we can make, rewards we can offer, things we can hold back, support we can give for people in the country? And then you try to put together, you know, what you hope is a coherent overall strategy to try to get it moving in the right direction and keep it moving in the right direction, be it different paces, but that's where we go.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on Libya for one quick second?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Okay, and then --
QUESTION: On Iraq, you --
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: First here and then --
QUESTION: On Iraq, your report mentioned some arbitrary detention, mentioned some prisoners abused, but then you came into conclusion, "Unlike in the previous regime, none of these abuses were systematic or government-directed." What made you come to this conclusion?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I think largely because the government is trying to do something about it. In the previous regime, the government was directing and ordering these as a matter of policy, these things. What we're dealing with now in Iraq is largely -- and I talked with Ambassador Negroponte just before he left. And there's a huge problem in the administration of justice system because, under Saddam, judges weren't expected to be independent, jailers weren't intended to treat prisoners properly, the jails weren't configured to treat people properly.
So the result is you've got this carryover effect. They've got a huge backlog of cases in court now. People get arrested by the police, put in jail, but there are not enough capable judges to be able to try them. They're in jails that aren't up to anybody's standards. You've got jailers who, you know, who weren't properly trained or maybe have carryover bad habits from the old days. Even having properly trained jailers, as we've seen, doesn’t necessarily guarantee good results. The people in Abu Ghraib were corrections officers here in their civilian life, or many of them were.
So the difference, though, is that what we see is a willingness and eagerness on the part of the government to try to move this and get people trained and professionalize the different elements of their justice system. And we're working with them to do that, but we have to acknowledge that we haven't succeeded in accomplishing that yet. It is a long-term process and it's being worked, but that's the distinction. You see that throughout the world where -- and that's why I mentioned some countries are in here not because their governments are, you know, as a matter of policy, are abusing their own people, but just because they have -- you know, they're either poor or have very poor training of people and so on and they need to be brought up to snuff. Others, it's because they're deliberately abusing their people.
QUESTION: But you --
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Either way, you want to help them fix it.
QUESTION: You only meant Iraqi prison guards, abuses done by Iraqi prison guards, not --
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: And police.
QUESTION: And police.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah, but again, not as a matter of systematic policy. It's people doing their own thing, reverting to old habits and all that kind of thing. And it's a tough problem not just in Iraq. I mean, this is -- I would say if you look around the world, with the exception of those regimes that are -- you know, and they're getting, happily, to be fewer and fewer in number, where, as a matter of government policy, they go out and terrorize their own people.
In a lot of the world, these kinds of problems are there just because the institutions are weak, they're under funded, under trained and so on, and that's where you have a much more cooperative environment to try to deal with it. But unfortunately, it's not something that you can just, you know, do that and fix it. It takes a lot of training over the years.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Libya just for a sec? You note in the report that despite statements by Muammar Qadhafi and other Libyan leaders that they see some need to improve their human rights record, little has changed. I wonder if you might have had greater effectiveness in persuading the Libyan regime if the United States Government had held off a little longer on some of the rewards it provided them for WMD. I mean, as you're well aware, we suspended the sanctions in April and formally scrapped the trade embargo in September.
Wouldn't your hand have been strengthened if you had held off a little on that? And why shouldn't people come to the conclusion that eliminating WMD was simply more important to the U.S. national interest than improving the lot of the Libyans whose rights are abused by their own government?
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Okay. First, there are whole line of sanctions against Libya and not all of them came off. Some of them are linked to progress on human rights. Others -- some of them had been put in place saying, you know, we will lift these when you do the right thing on Pan Am 103 or we will lift these when you do the right thing on allowing the IAEA in.
And one of the things I've learned about sanctions is you can't move the goal post. If you want them to be effective, when you put them on and you say, "These are the things you need to do to get them removed," if you want to have credibility in your future statements when somebody does do that thing, then you have to "reward them" or cease sanctioning them on that ground.
But, you know, those were not the only sanctions in place with Libya. There's also this balance between, you know, the question George raised, implied, if you have no relations at all with somebody, how much influence do you have once you've been able reengage in a certain way? Do you have more or less? It's a balancing act. I mean, I'm not going to say that, you know, that there's a perfect formula there. You're constantly trying to figure out how do you maximize your influence on this issue, but also you've got to be maximizing your influence on WMD as well. And hopefully what you get is a policy that is moving forward on all those fronts that are in our national interest and not just one of them.
QUESTION: Do you see any forward movement on the treatment of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor or on Fathi al-Jahmi, whom you've noted in the report, remains in detention and his whereabouts unknown?
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Not forward movement, but at least as -- they're getting the message from us loud and clear on all those fronts.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, just to follow up on Libya and a number of other countries. I mean --
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Libya is popular this morning.
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but, I mean, you said that Libya remained among the world's worst violators of human rights. Yet, recently in the last year, we've only seen a continual improvement of relations. The same thing with China. I mean, also called China one of the worst violators of human rights and, in fact, didn't have a dialogue with China last year, a human rights dialogue, because you said that there was insignificant progress.
So, I mean, how can -- where does human rights weigh in a bilateral relationship when the United States said that this is its bedrock of foreign policy? I mean, how are you going to -- where does it -- is it going to weigh in in improvement on bilateral relations when there aren't any consequences?
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Well, China was actually -- when I referred earlier to a country where I was saying, you know, our relations are okay in other areas but the reason the overall relationship is lagging behind was China and the reason is human rights. The reason that we didn't have dialogue during the year was that we had -- the Chinese had broken off any kind of dialogue after Geneva last year. We had said we don't want formal dialogue to substitute for real results.
Now, what happened? We go through that whole period and our engagement with the Chinese during the last year has been heavily on human rights. They came back last fall and said, okay, we want to resume the working-level dialogue, see if we can get some forward movement. We got some forward movement in terms of some concrete steps we'd been looking for for the last decade, which I outlined when we talked about that before.
But that doesn't change -- I mean, you're starting from a baseline that's very poor and, as a result, even when you get some significant steps that you've been interested in, you're not going to change your overall assessment. But that's where our work has been. I mean, the amount of effort that's gone into that on the part of senior officials in this government is pretty significant.
So it's not an either/or proposition. When you've got a country with which you have decent or good trade relations and so on, that gives you certain opportunities to deal -- to advance your human rights agenda. When you've got countries that because of their behavior completely isolated in the world, that gives you a different line of approach, but you're still trying to push the same goals.
QUESTION: Right. But just to follow up, I mean, some of the countries that are isolated because of the human rights aren't any worse than some of the other countries that you do have good relations for. And you're not isolating them.
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: First, I don't think that's probably -- you know, if you look at North Korea or something, it's probably in a league by itself. Libya does not have normal relations with us at this point. You know, it's the old story, though. We used to get the argument about, well, you have normal diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union but not with Cuba. Why are you following a double line? And the answer is because in one place, one approach has a better chance of working; in the other, the other may.
In the case of the Soviet Union, you had to deal with them. They were a nuclear superpower and so on. But after Helsinki, anyway, we started at every occasion that our senior officials, the President, Secretary and so on were talking to the Soviets, they were talking to them about human rights cases. And they were also talking to them about arms control. They were talking to them about wheat sales and any manner of other things. But that was an element of it.
On the other side with the Cubans, for example, where we have a comprehensive trade embargo on them, you know, they know that -- and we do talk with them and they know what it's going to take to get that changed. It's going to take some really serious movement on this front, which they haven't been willing to do. But it's -- you know, you try to use what you can use in each case. In Burma we have a very, very strong sanction on them.
So, you know, there's not some scientific cookie-cutter approach you can take out and say, okay, any country that has human rights problems, you know, let's break diplomatic relations, do this, this and this. You've got to figure out what it is, what is that country's role in the world, what's the best way to attack the problem with that country. And there's a whole series of tools and it's a mix-and-match type of deal. That's what we're trying to lay out in this report, what the mix and match is in each case. And it's always debatable. It gets debated very heavily within the government and it'll get debated very strongly in public and that's healthy. But the goal is always there and, you know, you hope that what you're doing is the best way to achieve it.
QUESTION: I don't know if everybody would agree the way to deal with Pakistan is to provide them with fighter jets. But in light of today's situation, your report is lukewarm. You see some improvement in Pakistan. You seem in the overview to hold, which, you know, is a philosophically solid view a lot of people have, that the improvement of relations with India will have a salutary effect on human rights in Pakistan. But considering what's going on today, currently, do you think you guys have it about right or maybe they really haven't moved that forward -- or is this what happens when you open a system, you have demonstrations?
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: You mean in Pakistan or in India? In Pakistan.
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Yeah. When you open up a system, people get out and make their views known. And you know, it's look, I mean, one thing you can point to in places like Pakistan and China, for example, is we have been able in those countries to run programs and to work with NGOs, with opposition parties, with journalists and so on inside those countries. And that's a useful thing, too. That's one of the values of having relationships in the other areas is that the government is willing to go along with those things.
So, again, you can slice and dice this any way you want and say, well, maybe we should have put a little more emphasis on this in this country at this time and a little less on that. And, you know, that's what we all get paid to do and hopefully, you know, the sausage machine produces something that's halfway coherent at the end.
QUESTION: We're all suspicious by nature. (Laughter.)
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: You went to one of the training programs for journalists that we give.
QUESTION: Well, you need Pakistan so badly that I wonder if you haven't got a rose-colored glass. I don't mean you.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah.
QUESTION: You know, do the glasses you're looking at Pakistan with have a tint of rose in them in the lens? Because they could fight terrorism and still not be friendly to democracy.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: This is true. And, you know, let's -- I'll back away from talking about Pakistan in particular, but I think one of the toughest problems you come across in this business, and we've seen it over and over again -- during the Cold War when you were fighting against, you know, communist takeovers, now when you've got risks of extreme terrorist groups taking over countries and so on -- is that usually what happens, a dictatorial ruler will basically suppress their moderate opposition or any chance of moderate opposition, so you're left with an extreme bunch who are totally, you know, committed against the human rights of their own people, against our interests and so on, and then you've got a dictator over here who also is abusing the daylights out of their own people, maybe useful with us on a couple of points but you know in the end of the day if he doesn't change, these other guys are going to take over anyway.
Okay, so where do you go? If you say, well, I have to pick one of these two extremes, you're making the wrong choice because either one of them is a bad place to go. So what you're trying to do is, you know, live with the government in power for the time being because they're there, you have to deal with them; at the same time, you're trying to create or help -- it's not that we can create, it's your trying to help the people in the country that are already there who want to have moderate democratic institutions that are respectful of pluralism and tolerance and so on, and help strengthen them and strengthen their hand so that you're not at the end of the day left with those two awful choices.
QUESTION: The Philippines under Marcos was typical of what you're saying, the U.S. approach to the Philippines.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah, or El Salvador in the '80s where, you know, did you want the military government or did you want the FMLN. Well, the answer was we didn't want either one. And but how do you work with and create -- and it's a messy process. It's full of compromises and, you know, that's just the way it is. And diplomacy. That's what this is all about.
Yea, ma'am, in the next --
QUESTION: You mentioned the world "credibility" a couple times. I wanted to ask you about U.S. credibility, particularly when it comes to countries like Syria. You talk to them about human rights abuses, yet the U.S. has sent terror suspects to Syria. Just in general, can you talk about America's credibility program in the Middle East given Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, rendering of terror suspects?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah. Well, you know, it was interesting when Abu Ghraib first hit, we all were saying, oh, my gosh, this is really going to go badly for us there. And I think as time went on it's turned out, at least the sense I get, is that we may have more of an image problem in other parts of the world than in the Middle East. Because when you talk to people from the Middle East, many of them will say, yeah, well, when we first saw all those pictures and everything it was horrible, but then we started to see -- what are the next pictures they saw? American soldiers getting court-martialed for what they had done. The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs being hauled up before a congressional committee and asked a lot of really hard questions, which doesn't happen in their countries.
So what we've tried to do is say, look, the United States is not unlike any other country; human rights violations get committed by the U.S. authorities as well. The question is: What do you do about it? Do you have a system that has checks and balances built in, where you have an independent judiciary that's reviewing decisions, where you have a Congress that's calling people in and asking questions, where you have an independent press that's raising the question every day?
And so our answer to places like Syria is it's not what we want to see is an absence of human rights violations -- I mean, that would be ideal -- but the next best thing is that you guys have systems in place that call people to account when abuses do occur. And that's what, you know, our system is there, it's working. Now, bad judgments get made sometimes. People do criminal acts sometimes. And it's not just in the war on terror. I mean, we've seen it in this country over the last decade with, you know, police abusing -- I mean, ask Abner Louima about abuses by police.
But the question is: What do you do about it? Do you encourage that as a matter of government policy or cover it up or condone it, or do you bring it all out in the open and prosecute people? And that's where, to me, the credibility factor comes in is when we can point and say our actions are being questioned, they are being called to account, and so on.
QUESTION: You know, just very briefly on four Asian countries -- Laos, Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam. You know, the situation is a little different in each, but in all four of those cases tyranny seems to be an immoveable object at this point. Can you say what the U.S. view is of the chances of progress in those countries?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, let's take Vietnam, which may be a little larger of the lot there. You've seen some progress, of course, in opening up the economic system over the last few decades and that has a certain influence on people's personal freedom but it doesn't deal with their civil and political rights. What we're starting to see now -- we've been heavily engaged with Vietnam. They got designated a Country of Particular Concern over absence of religious freedom, or for particularly egregious violations of religious freedom. And now we're seeing them willing to talk about those issues and to talk about some changes. Small, painfully so, but it's a tough area of the world to move. But we've got, as the report outlines, our people are in there every day. That's actually one of the main content of our diplomacy is over these issues in all of the countries you mentioned. So it's just a long, hard slog.
And the thing is, you never know when something is going to change. I mean, as we've seen here over the last few months -- we used to have a saying when I was in Latin American affairs that every dictator looks really strong until ten minutes before he gets on the plane to Miami. And, you know, I think you can take that more generally. These regimes, they give the façade of being really strong, in control, because that's their whole persona is based on controlling everybody. But when they -- they tend to rot from the inside out and when change comes, it tends to come pretty quickly. You get the little incremental things and then all of a sudden, bang, something happens. And you don't know when that's going to be.
QUESTION: Well, in the case of Burma they seem to be very much in control. Strong sanctions on our part, mixed messages from their ASEAN neighbors. I mean, what's it going to take to change that?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: I think we just have to keep trying to get the messages to be less mixed from the countries in the surrounding area. But what I'm implying, and I don't know that this is the case in Burma, but what I would warrant is that probably not we, not you, not nobody else, knows what's really going on inside that government and how together they are. They give the projection of being really tough and really strong and everything else, but we saw just the other day in Kyrgyzstan where a government that seemed to be very strong and organized and tough, when it came to just confronting a few people doing sit-ins in buildings, the army and the police said, hey, we're not with you on that one. And you just don't know when that's going to come down.
So this is part of this business is that, again, there's no guaranteed formula where you can lay out a line of march, you know, where by next year we will get this kind of freedom installed and then the following year this will happen and, you know, ten years from now we'll be at democracy. It doesn't go that way. So you have to, in a certain way, have faith and keep pushing all the buttons you can find to push. And over time -- again, I will come back to this point that it's not what we do as much as what people inside do. At the end of the day it's going to be people taking back their own countries. We can show support for that. We can give them help and the tools to be able to do that. But it's a question at the end of the day of their will, their commitment. And I think what we're seeing is that you find people like that in every country in great numbers, usually ordinary people; when they have their chance, they move.
QUESTION: You mentioned Kyrgyzstan. To what extent do you believe that the support for democracy and saying what you just said about we're there to provide support actually unwittingly can incite violence at times?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Well, it's not -- obviously, we're not providing support for violence and everything we do is designed to support peaceful democratic change, not violent change. What promotes violence, though, is when a regime keeps people down over and over and over, and then finally the frustration or the breakdown of order occurs. And it's not something to be desired. In fact, this is usually one of our strong arguments with these guys in power is to say, don't let this go until the point where what you're facing is a violent reaction because it's not in anyone's interest. Innocent people get hurt in those kind of situations as well.
But it's not an excuse for saying don't be supportive of people who are trying to promote democracy in their own country because if they're successful and the old regime goes out, that, well, there can be a period of chaos in there. I mean, there's going to be a period of chaos if the old regime stays in and then suddenly collapses in a great violent bang when it's taken over by some really extreme groups. So the goal is to have a peaceful, orderly transition and I think we've, by and large, seen that. I mean, look at Ukraine, look at Georgia. Those have not been -- there has not been much violence associated with those changes. And even Kyrgyzstan, I mean, you know, we're trying to see, you know, that there's not a great deal of violence. We've been calling all along on both sides to eschew violence.
In the back there.
QUESTION: Earlier there was an assertion that any country who expects to have any good relationship with the United States must pay attention to the human rights. There are two democracies in Latin America that I would like for you to please comment. One is Colombia and one is Venezuela. How does the United States see these two countries?
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Colombia we see as a country with a democratically elected government, most of the forms of democracy in place, independent media, independent judiciary and so on. It's suffered from, you know, decades now of attacks by both the now narco-financed leftist guerillas and narco-financed rightist death squad types, both of them from different angles molesting people in the country.
Our effort there has been to try to strengthen the government and strengthen the administration of justice system. We're put quite a bit of money over the years into judge training, prosecutors and so on. Unfortunately, when you get the kind of money and intimidation going around that you've got in Colombia, a lot of judges and prosecutors can be intimidated or bribed and you get impunity, you get some serious problems.
But that's a good case of a government where we feel that the elected officials in the senate, in the local, in the municipalities, at the presidential level, are all striving to, you know, strengthen the institutions of democracy and to suppress people who are doing gross violations of human rights. So our effort is to try to, again, help the people. In this case, it happens to be the government in power. I mean, I would say that more broadly; not just the party in power, but the political parties who have been elected are working in that direction.
In Venezuela you have a democratically elected president, but who came in after having tried to make a coup against the previous governments. You had discredited political parties because of corruption over the years and so on, a very populist message. Our effort there has been to say to the government, "We're ready to work with you, you know, as long as you respect the human rights of your citizens." Unfortunately, what we've seen are some pretty severe backsliding in areas like press freedom, judicial independence and so on in Venezuela.
So our message is, you know, you want to have a decent relation with us, you need to move those aspects of your system back in the right direction. But it's -- that one is not on a positive trend right now, I unfortunately have to say.
But again, this is one of these cases where there's been a long history as to how we got here and it's -- you have to ascribe a lot of it to the -- a little bit like Pakistan, with the political class not being particularly responsible or responsive to their own people and, you know, you find yourself in this kind of a mess.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a little bit about Africa. In Uganda, in particular, the president has -- the country has moved forward over the past number of years. It's been held up as a model for things that are going well. The United States has supported the president and his government a lot. It seems to be deteriorating rapidly right now with changing the constitution, human rights, a lot of reports of torture and some of Idi Amin's cells being used again and that sort of thing.
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah.
QUESTION: By the same -- so here's an example of a friend that the United States has supported quite a bit seems to be, you know, going downhill. By the same token, Zimbabwe -- what can be done there? I mean --
AMBASSADOR KOZAK: Yeah, it's difficult and you find governments that come into power that are democratically elected and then slip in the wrong direction, sometimes because they're being confronted by an insurgency, sometimes because people get more and more cut off from reality.
Zimbabwe -- a good example. One of my friends was ambassador there and we used to go back and forth on what was going on. A very, very difficult situation. A lot of people I think probably inside that government that are disturbed by the direction it's taken, but unable or unwilling thus far to take steps to do it.
We've -- but -- you know, we, in both cases, are trying to strengthen more, you know, the people in the society who have a vision of a democratic future and we'll -- you know, so it's basically "Stay tuned." These things -- again, you just can't tell where they're going to come out, but we're -- you know, we're working the problem in each of those countries.
Africa is generally, I think has suffered from -- you know, so many years of just weak institutions and corruption and so on that now, even when you get a democratically elected government, they have real challenges to, you know, to build those things up and not get caught up with maintaining their own power in the process. It's not an easy thing.
Back there and then up here.
QUESTION: I understand that you said at the end of the day it has to be up to the people in that country who stand up and speak out. However, in the case of China, this year, you know, there are like, up till today, I think there are at least 500,000 people who in public announcing that they're quitting the Communist Party because it's so bad. Yet, at this time this year, you dropped the China resolution that you're in at this time. So do you think it kind of like message to the Chinese people in China that you're turning the back to them? Is it -- I mean, whatever the Chinese people do or their react -- situation in China is a factor with -- if you take into account when you make the decision about the resolution in the UN?
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Yeah. As we talked before, I mean, the reason that we decided not to go forward with a resolution this year -- it doesn't say anything about future years -- was that China had come through with some very specific steps we've been looking for for a long time that we think will be beneficial in terms of human rights. One was the revision of the system for parole and commutation of sentence of state security prisoners, which allows people to get out of jail earlier. They shouldn't have been in jail in the first place. I mean, you're talking about, you know, steps within an overall bad system.
But we have seen a number of people get out, including people who were associated with Democracy Wall and Tiananmen. We've seen people have the opportunity to get out in the future. They made an invitation, concrete invitation, to the Special Rapporteur for Torture to be able to go on his terms and visit and see how Chinese prisons are operating and so on. And out of that will come benchmarks and recommendations that we can use then to try to improve the treatment of people in China.
We had some clarification on rights of parents to provide religious education to their children. Again, you shouldn't -- why should we even have to be talking about that? But before it wasn't so clear and the Chinese made public statements to that effect. Now -- and several other steps as well, other rapporteurs, opening international Red Cross office in Beijing.
So these were concrete steps and release of Rebiya Kadeer . All taken together, we said with that it warrants not running a resolution. That didn't mean we didn't criticize China in Geneva. We did in the item nine speech that we gave just last week. I also should say about China, as you'll see outlined in the report, I mean, last year we provided -- our bureau -- $13.5 million in funding for programs inside China, working with people who are trying to improve their -- or work towards a democratic government, respect for human rights. For this current fiscal year, we've got $19 million programmed. So we are able to do some things in that regard as well.
So, you know, it's again, it's a balance. You know, do you get more by one year, the judgment may be we get more by taking a resolution to Geneva, another year the judgment may be that we get more by not doing that in return for some specific steps. But we have to work all these elements together. It's not that one element constitutes a pro or anti-democratic policy.
I think there was one more. I guess you were the last one. I was looking. I knew I had put somebody off.
QUESTION: I just was going to ask if you could talk briefly about Darfur, where -- what we can do, given that, frankly, efforts so far have failed.
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Yeah. And thanks for raising that because that is one of the most acute human rights problems in the world right now, as is outlined in the report. And in fact, we -- as the report spells out, one of the things we did last year, one reason we know how bad the problem is, is that we put together a sort of unique approach. We realized that everybody was looking at Darfur and there were a lot of stories about it, about the militias there and so on. But there was a real lack of clarity as to just how these attacks were going down, what was behind them and so on.
So last summer, we worked together with the USAID and with our Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and put together a team that was comprised largely of people from our bureau -- Democracy, Human Rights and Labor -- and people from a couple of legal NGOs we hired. And we went out, we worked up -- the reason intelligence and research people were engaged was we worked up a script with them for taking a really scientific type of poll of people in the refugee camps in Chad, you know, how to do a random selection and how to ask questions with cross checks and that kind of thing. And then we deployed and did that.
The result of that was that contrary to a lot of the information that we had before, we determined that each one of these attacks was preceded by a Sudanese air force attack on the city. In a majority of cases, the Sudanese regular army showed up next and further destroyed villages. And then the militias come around and molest people and so on. But it wasn't -- in other words, what this showed was that it wasn't a case of some out of control militia. It was a case of deliberate policy on the part of the government. So that gave us a new angle on what to do. And we were able to then corroborate that with other information. But knowing exactly when and where and how an attack could occurred, we could go back and look at other things and say, yeah, that verifies that.
So we were able to go and confront the Sudanese authorities with this. When Secretary Powell went out there, he had that in hand. We turned all this data over to the UN Commission of Inquiry, which we, I think, helped take the lead on the Security Council getting set up. They, likewise, came to the same conclusions and got more data that further validated this.
Now, that's the problem. What's the solution? I mean, we've all been saying to the Sudanese that if you want to get the benefits of the North-South peace agreement, which should be substantial for the country, you've got to end the violence in Darfur. They keep bobbing and weaving on this. You know, we keep trying to escalate the pressure in the Security Council. They're looking at further sanctions.
What will it take? I don't know. So, I mean, basically right now, we're trying to do a couple of things. One is maintain a flow of humanitarian relief because people who don't get killed by these marauding militias and government troops -- and by the way the rebels are not totally blameless in this either. They themselves have not been particularly nice towards civilian populations. But, you know, we're trying to maintain access for humanitarian relief efforts. We're trying to get more AU monitors in there as a deterrent against further attacks. And we're trying to put more pressure on the government to take it seriously and to cut this out. Hasn't worked yet. But that's the line of approach that we're trying.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
AMBASSSADOR KOZAK: Thanks a lot. Enjoy the report. I'm glad -- obviously, you guys have read it.
Released on March 28, 2005