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Concern over Deteriorating Human Rights in China

Transcript: Koh Mar. 16 Foreign Press Center Briefing

(Cites worldwide concern over deteriorating rights in China) (5800)

The U.S. will stress two important themes at this year's U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva -- "promoting human rights through promoting democracy," and "using global mechanisms to encourage nations to abide by global rules," Harold Koh, assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor, said March 16.

Speaking at the Foreign Press Center, Koh noted that there is a human rights commission, but no democracy commission, although democracy is an important human right. He said he expects a resolution about preserving and extending the right to democracy. "Democracies should stick together," he added. On an optimistic note, Koh remarked on the progress of democracy in recent decades. "In 1974, there were 30 democracies," he said. Now, there are at least 120."

Most of the questions asked at the news conference concerned China and the U.S. sponsorship of a country resolution condemning China's human rights record. Koh said there is "worldwide concern about deteriorating human rights conditions," in the People's Republic of China. He listed five specific aspects of the problem:

-- The crackdown on "political dissent," including restrictions on the free flow of information and the Internet;

-- The assault on "freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Koh said there had been 35,000 arrests in China in this area during the last year;

-- The worsening situation in Tibet, including the forcing of monks there into re-education camps;

-- The increasing use of "forced labor," to produce goods, contrary to international agreements;

-- The decline in the status of women's rights.

Koh criticized China's view that these issues are internal matters, calling it a "double standard," to introduce a no-action resolution in Geneva and thus block all discussion on China's human rights record. "I have not talked to a single government that has not expressed concern," about the country's human rights record, he continued. It is not confrontation and interference in the internal affairs of another nation to ask it "to defend its record against international standards," he added.

As far as the country resolution on China that the U.S. will sponsor is concerned, Koh predicted that there is "chance to win," this year, since the country's human rights record "has deteriorated across the board." He predicted "a close vote" on China's no-action resolution. In 1995, China's no action motion was defeated and the country resolution failed by just one vote, he stressed.

Asked about recent Chinese statements indicating how the Taiwanese should vote in their upcoming presidential election, Koh said it is "clear what we think of the threats." He referred to the more detailed statement at the March 16 State Department briefing condemning the Chinese remarks about the election.

The other major topic at the news conference was the human rights situation in Colombia. Koh called it a "very difficult and longstanding problem." He praised Colombia for holding regular elections and said he believed the government there is "deeply committed to democracy and human rights." But he also expressed "continuing concern about the ties between the military and the paramilitaries." The latter have been accused of serious human rights abuses.

Koh praised the Colombian government for what he called the "initial steps," it has taken to deal with those ties and said the government there is "the best hope," for human rights progress. He acknowledged that human rights abuses have been committed by both sides in the country's long standing armed conflict, saying that the abuses by the paramilitaries are of "as much concern to us," as those committed by the guerillas. The UN will release its own human rights report on the Colombian situation while the Human Rights Commission is in session.

Asked about recent alleged abuses by ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, Koh said, "we will not tolerate human rights abuses in the Kosovo area whomever they are done by." He referred reporters to statements made earlier in the day by James Rubin, the State Department's spokesperson, who has just returned from the region.

As to whether the death penalty is a human rights abuse, as some human rights organizations and some countries now allege, Koh said that the death penalty "is consistent," with international human rights standards. Those standards may change at some point, he said, but currently there is no inconsistency.

The 56th session of the UN Human Rights Conference will convene in Geneva, Switzerland, on March 20 and will continue until April 28.

Following is an unofficial transcript of the briefing from the Federal News Service (FNS):

(begin transcript)

STATE DEPARTMENT FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING

SUBJECT: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION SESSIONS

BRIEFER: HAROLD KOH, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR

DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS & LABOR

MODERATOR: CHARLES SILVER

THE FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, DC

MARCH 16, 2000

MR. KOH: Good afternoon. It's always good to be here at the Foreign Press Center. I was here a few weeks ago to talk about the annual country reports on human rights practices that my bureau releases. I'm here today to talk about the upcoming 56th session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission is the preeminent world body on human rights. It considers hundreds of resolutions each year. This year the session runs from March 20th to the end of April in Geneva. And there'll be a number of very important issues and matters being discussed. This will also be a very important year because this will be the first year that the U.S. Secretary of State will appear to address the U.N. Human Rights Commission in recent memory. Madeleine Albright, when she was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, spoke at the commission a number of years ago, as did U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations William Richardson. But no one has gone as secretary of State for some time, and she'll be there next Thursday giving remarks at the opening plenaries.

For the U.S. government, there are two important themes running through the many important resolutions that we'll be discussing. The first is promoting human rights by promoting democracy. One of the interesting phenomenon is that we have a Human Rights Commission and we have many concerns about democracy, but we have no U.N. Democracy Commission. And the U.N. Human Rights Commission is a place in which we can put the spotlight on countries who deny their citizens the right of democratic participation. That includes such countries as China, Cuba and others. And this will be a very important theme.

The second important theme is using global mechanisms to encourage nations to play by global rules. It's very important to emphasize that we are not talking about Western standards here, we're talking about the universal declaration of human rights, which was accepted by all of the member nations of the United Nations. And the question is, will nations appear before the commission to explain their conduct by international standards which they themselves have accepted. We think every nation is obliged to do so. The United States itself does so. And it's an important opportunity and an important occasion for discussion of these questions.

That's my initial remarks, and I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about any particular parts of the commission this year or any particular resolutions.

MR. SILVER: With that, we'll take questions. Please, as always, identify yourself, wait for a microphone.

Front row.

Q (Off mike) --

MR. SILVER: One moment, please.

Q Thank you. Hi. My name is Li from Beijing Daily newspaper.

MR. KOH: From -- I'm sorry?

Q From Beijing Daily newspaper, China. I have a question. I mean, the U.S. government has decided to put forward, I mean, a resolution condemning China's human rights record in the Geneva conference. My question is, besides the U.S. government, is there any other countries, according to your knowledge, that follow your U.S. move condemning China?

MR. KOH: Well, I think there's been worldwide concern about the deteriorating human rights conditions in China. When I was here a few weeks ago, I discussed the factual record, which I think is pretty unequivocal, namely, that China's human rights record has deteriorated markedly over the last year in at least five different areas.

First, the area of political dissent. Efforts have been made to really crush the China Democratic Party. We believe that that's a right of political participation which is protected by the Universal Declaration. A number of prominent political prisoners remain imprisoned, and there's been no action on their cases.

Second, the right of freedom of thought, conscience, and religion continues to be systematically repressed, not just with regard to Christians, such as Protestants and Catholics, but also Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, and most recently with regard to the Falun Gong movement, of which there have been some 35,000 arrests over the course of the last year -- really an astonishing number.

A third area of concern has been the situation in Tibet and efforts to enhance the education of -- the reeducation campaign against Tibetan nuns and monks. The fact of the matter remains that in the summer of 1998 President Jiang Zemin said that he was willing to consider the possibility of political dialogue with the Dalai Lama, and since then there have been only steps backward.

A fourth area, the area of forced and prison labor, which is of tremendous concern. We do not believe that it's permissible to use human rights violations as a basis for producing goods.

And finally, the area of women's rights and the treatment of women in a period in which there has been massive economic dislocation.

I would also point out that despite some recent moves to lift those restrictions, there have been restrictions placed on the Internet and other kinds of free flow of information.

So I think this is a pretty disturbing factual record. The question is, how do you respond? We decided in January that we really had no alternative but to introduce a resolution in Geneva. It's one we have discussed with a number of countries. China has in the past introduced something called a "no-action motion" in which they say that the commission is not entitled to consider their behavior. I want to make exactly clear what this means. They are saying that even though they are a member of the commission, if someone introduces a resolution about their behavior, they don't have to answer. And that is a double standard. No other country in the world puts forward regularly a no-action motion about their conduct. Every other country in the world appears before the commission and allows its conduct to be evaluated. Our view is China is an important country, it's a powerful nation, but it is not entitled to this double standard.

In 1995, the no-action motion was defeated. Since then, more nations have voted for the no-action motion. Three years ago, it passed by 10 votes. Last year we announced a resolution and that margin was cut to five. And this year we're expecting the resolution itself to be voted.

Q So what about other countries, especially the European countries? Did you have contact with them, and what about their idea? Are they going to follow the U.S. move?

MR. KOH: Well, of course we've had contact with them and very systematic contact with them. We will be tabling the resolutions in the second or third week of the commission. And at the time, we'll have a number of explicit cosponsors, as well as those who are prepared to vote for the resolution when it comes to a vote on April 20th. So we're still a number of weeks away, and so I'm not going to make any predictions until we get to that point. But what I will say is I have not talked to a single government that has not expressed deep concern about the deteriorating human rights condition in China.

MR. SILVER: Other questions? In the back.

Q Recently the Korean foreign minister visited Mrs. Albright --

MR. SILVER: Would you identify yourself?

Q I am from MBC television, Seoul, (Chin ?). The Korean foreign minister visited here and had talks with Mrs. Albright, and they briefed us that they had talked about North Korean matters -- who escaped from North Korea and remain in China.

And they have a very fatal life there, very difficult life there. So they will some -- they talk about it and express some deep concerns about that. What's your plan afterwards, and what are you going to do in the commission?

MR. KOH: I was delighted to see that the Korean foreign minister came, and I know that he and Secretary Albright had very productive talks. Obviously, both the security situation and the human rights situation in North Korea are of deep mutual concern, both for the United States and for the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea is on the commission again this year, as last year. Ambassador Chung Mon Sun (sp) is the representative. The United States and the Republic of Korea have collaborated and worked with one another as democracies.

As I said, one of the themes of this year's commission is promoting human rights by promoting democracy. Last year the U.S. tabled for the first time a resolution on the right to democracy, which the Republic of Korea supported. This year a number of countries, democracies around the world, are convening a meeting in Warsaw from June 26th to June 27th called the Community of Democracies Initiative. It's being sponsored by the government of Poland, but other convening nations include the United States, Mali and the Republic of Korea, as well as a number of others. We expect that this year in Geneva there will be a resolution about preserving and consolidating the right to democracy, which will be an effort to extend the cooperation of democracies with one another.

I think our basic message is that democracies should stick together. Korea had a long struggle to achieve democracy, and now it's working closely with other democratic countries to promote human rights. And Geneva, we think will be just another example of this.

Q But the North Koreans in China, what about their future? And what are you going to -- as the United States position, what are you going to do in the commission?

MR. KOH: I think on that, I'd just rely on the briefing you got from Secretary Albright and the foreign minister. I don't expect that that particular issue will come up at the commission, so I'd prefer to keep this discuss about the commission itself.

MR. SILVER: A question?

Q Yes. Anders Cavelier from RCN Television from Colombia. Our network reported last night in Colombia some of the recommendations that Mary Robinson is making to the Colombian government in the Human Rights Report that is going to be unveiled in Geneva next week.

And there seems to be a growing frustration, not only from this report, but from other reports and from the NGOs in this country and in Europe, about how the events in Colombia, as far as human rights go, are -- you know, are not improving.

Are you getting frustrated with things in Colombia? What are your recommendations at this point?

MR. KOH: I don't think there is much value in getting frustrated. I think the question is how to get on top of what is a very difficult and long-standing problem. As you know, the people of Colombia faced a very severe problem; namely, the problem of the lack of peace, the problem of narcotics, the problem of lack of democratic institutions.

Colombia is a country which has had regular fair elections. And it has a government in the government of President Pastrana, that I think is deeply committed to both democracy and human rights. I went with Secretary Albright to -- Cartagena in January and then, with Undersecretary Pickering to Bogota in February. And we met with many members of the Colombian government. And from them, I think there is a genuine resolve to try to address these issues.

I do think that, from the Human Rights Report that we have released and from what I understand to be some of the basic conclusions of Mary Robinson's report, there is a continuing concern about ties between the paramilitaries and the militaries, and the conviction that this government needs to take affirmative steps and to have a credible action plan to break those ties. Now, everybody recognizes that this can't be done overnight, that these ties are based on long-standing practices. But they do need to be addressed.

I think that the Pastrana government has taken some important initial steps. On February 25th, Vice President Gustavo Bell announced the creation of a coordinated commission to deal with the question. Defense Minister Ramirez said that he would give to General Tapias authority to remove high-ranking officers who commit violations. There are important legislative reforms that we think are absolutely critical; namely, enactment of the Law of Forced Disappearances, enactment of implementing legislation for the Military Justice Code.

I do know that next week Vice President Bell will be in Geneva and addressing the Human Rights Commission. I also will expect that Mary Robinson's report will be discussed.

I think our view is quite simple. One can recognize the continuing human-rights problems that exist in Colombia and believe that the Pastrana administration is the best hope that the Colombian people have of getting some traction on that problem.

And the U.S. government is committed to do what it can to help the people of Colombia to try to address these problems by supporting the activities of its democratically elected government.

Q Just a quick follow-up. The Colombian military issued its own report yesterday and it concluded that most of the violations in Colombia are committed by the guerrillas. Do you agree with that?

MR. KOH: I did not look at that report in detail, so I'm reluctant to comment. I would say that we have looked at a variety of reports. I think it's fair to say that most -- and this is what our own report says, the vast majority of killings are by the paramilitaries and the guerrillas. I do think that most uncontested accounts are that the paramilitaries have extremely high numbers of killings, somewhere in the range of 700 to 800 extrajudicial killings last year. I do know that the number of guerrilla killings is more contested between various accounts.

I have not seen the Defense Department -- Ministry's -- report, so I'm not prepared to comment on it. But I would say that the paramilitary human rights abuses are as significant a concern to us as are the guerrilla abuses. We in no way understate the guerrilla abuses, which are serious violations of international humanitarian law, but we think that there are two agents that are operating outside the law -- the paramilitary and the guerrillas -- and we encourage the government to try to do everything that it can to bring both within the realm of law.

MR. SILVER: Let's take a question from --

Q I'm Betty Lin of the World Journal. Can you give us the status of your efforts on the resolution on China and how many co- sponsors do you have right now, and how many do you expect to have? And also, what kind of chances do you think China has on the no-motion action? And also, I'd also like to know how long has your dialogue been suspended with China? Since last May China said that they suspend the military-to-military relations, and also they suspended human rights dialogue. And I don't know whether you think you are ever going to be invited back, or if you intend to initiate an invitation of your counterpart back to the States?

MR. KOH: Well on the first question, Betty, your colleague asked essentially the same question. All I will say is the same thing. We think there is -- there will be strong support for the resolution. We think there will be strong co-sponsorship for the resolution. We will not know the exact numbers until we put it on the table, which will be a couple of weeks from now.

So I think it's premature for me to comment.

As I said, three years ago the margin on the no-action motion was 10; last year it was 5. If you're a mathematician, you can see how it's moving. And we think it'll be a very close vote this year.

On the dialogue point, I think you raise a very good point. As you know, in January of 1999 Mr. Wang Guangya, who is now the vice foreign minister, and I had a very good dialogue here for two and a half days with a delegation in Washington. My full expectation was that that dialogue would continue. As late as April of last year, April 1999 I was under the full impression that that dialogue would resume in October or November in Beijing. In fact, Mr. Wang Guangya invited me to come to Beijing to have that dialogue. When the unfortunate incident of the bombing of the Belgrade embassy occurred, the Chinese broke off the dialogue with a number of other dialogues, including mil-mil, et cetera. And we would have hoped that they would re-open all dialogues.

In fact, they have steadfastly refused to re-open the human rights dialogue. I'm ready to go at a moment's notice. And I find this confusing, because they say that they're interested in dialogue. I'm interested in having a dialogue, and they're not interested in having a dialogue with me. So how can I understand their commitment to dialogue with us on human rights issues? It would be a very simple matter simply ton continue what we were already doing.

I would also point out that the government of China sometimes says they believe in confrontation, not dialogue. And they define "confrontation" as "a resolution in Geneva". My answer is it is not confrontation to ask a country to appear before a commission of the United Nations, of which it's a member, and justify its conduct by international standards. That's part of playing by global rules. I said that the U.N. Human Rights Commission is about using global mechanisms to encourage nations to obey global rules.

Now, for some reason, the People's Republic is defining what everybody else would consider to be an ordinary multilateral process as "confrontation". And then at the same time, with the United States they're refusing to have dialogue. So frankly I don't understand their human rights position.

MR. SILVER: Let's take a question from another part of the world, Russia.

Q I am Lebedev with Tass News Agency. There were a lot of reports today from the Baltic Republic of Latvia about the gatherings and marches of the former members of the so-called Latvian region that took part in the Nazi forces during the Second World War --

MR. KOH: I can't hear you -- the last bit.

Q Well, there were marches and gatherings of the veterans of the Latvian region of the Nazi forces that took part in the Second World War on the side of Nazi Germany. And the Latvian authorities tried to distance themselves from these events, but in fact, it looks like practically it happens by their consent from year to year, and even some members of Latvian Parliament took part in today's meetings and marches in Riga and other Latvian cities. These events provoked condemnation, even in Latvia, by some democratic-minded prominent political commentators, non-governmental organizations, and in particular, by Jewish and Russian communities. I think that this issue is directly connected to the problems of democracy and human rights, and I would appreciate if you could provide us some comments on that.

MR. KOH: I had heard about these incidents, but I had not gotten a detailed briefing, so much of what you're saying I have not been able to verify by any other source. So rather than make an uninformed comment, I'd prefer to just take the question.

MR. SILVER: Let's go to Henry and then we'll go to Thomas./

Q Mr. Secretary, Herman Pan with Central News Agency, CNA. I would like to follow up on my colleague's -- Betty Lin's - question. Betty herself is a human rights activist herself. Well, I mean, for the resolution condemning China, it never succeeds, and as we know that. So what is your strategy this year? You mentioned that Secretary Albright is going to give a lecture over there. But what is your strategy to make it more realistic instead of just making gestures to please the Congress?

My second question related to Taiwan's election. You know, Taiwan is going to have a presidential election in two days. And today, if you opened up the Washington Post, you saw the editorial calling communist China's premier, Zhu Rongji, as the Sir Corleone, who is the mafia leader. And the reason for that is the PRC is threatening Taiwan with military force if Taiwan voters choose the leader they don't like.

Well, you said -- in your opening remarks, you said that two main jobs you are going -- for you to go to Geneva. One of them is to promote human rights by promoting democracy. So I just wonder what's your plan. Do you have a plan, or do you have any concern that to promote democracy -- or, to say more precisely, to protect Taiwan's democracy, will Secretary Albright do anything in this regard?

MR. KOH: Well, first of all, you said that we never win this resolution. In 1995 the United States proposed the resolution, and the "no action" motion was defeated, and then the resolution itself failed by one vote. My view is that this year we will be as close to that result, if not better. I think we do have a chance to win this resolution. As I said three years ago, the margin was 10. Last year we announced the resolution on March 26th, and the "no action" motion was cut to five. This year the human rights record has deteriorated across the board. We have announced our resolution earlier. Secretary Albright is going to make a presentation. We are fully engaged in this. And the idea that this is somehow being done to satisfy Congress, as opposed to making a point in a multilateral forum about human rights, is preposterous.

Last year we supported the resolution and went forward, even though our chances of victory were quite remote. We did it as a matter of principle. We did it to send a message to the people of China that they do not stand alone in promoting democracy, and we do that again.

This time I think we do have a very significant chance of defeating the "no action" motion and moving to a vote on the resolution itself. And we're working all-out to achieve that result.

With regard to Taiwan, I think it's been clear what we think of the threats that have been made in recent days with regard to the election that's coming. A number of statements were issued by the department today, including by the press secretary, Jamie Rubin, at the noon briefing. And so I would just refer you to those, which I think capture the State Department's position.

MR. SILVER: Thomas?

Q Thomas Gorguissian, Al Wafd, Egypt. In Geneva, do you expect any proposal -- I cannot follow up your question, because I am not going to talk about -- I'm going to talk about the Middle East region.

Do you expect any confrontation or proposal regarding promoting democracy or protecting human rights on the wrongs in the Middle East? Or it's just -- it's a taboo, or it's a neglected case?

MR. KOH: Well, I must say that we believe that there should be more democracy in the Middle East. We think that human rights is a matter of international concern, and increasingly democracy is a matter of international concern.

In 1974, there were only 30 democracies worldwide. Now, out of 194 countries, at least 120 have a democratic form of government. Our view is that democratic forms of government are ones which most promote human rights and which are most directly accountable to the people.

That is not to say that governments in which there are benevolent leaders cannot promote the human rights of their people, even without democratic forms of government. We have seen that in some parts of the world, and historically there are examples of that, as well.

But we do believe that democratic forms of government are most likely to be accountable to the people, to protect their civil, political, economic and social and cultural rights; and that, therefore, that increasingly, we are recognizing that the right of democratic governments is itself a fundamental human right.

Q I have a question. I mean, probably, that part of the world, people raise the issue that it's a human rights issue, the suffering of the Iraqi people.

MR. KOH: I think the suffering of the Iraqi people is due to the activities of Saddam Hussein. And I think that it's quite a mistake to direct the human-rights attention away from the central human- rights violator in the region. The humanitarian assistance that's flowing to Iraq would be sufficient to address the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people if Saddam Hussein were not diverting that humanitarian aid for his own purposes. And I refuse to accept the notion that those who have been engaged in an effort to deal with someone who is one of the gross human-rights violators in the world, should be blamed because of his outrageous activities.

Q Yoshi Nodinakai (sp), the Mainichi Newspaper of Japan.

I understand that some countries or NGOs criticize the United States because of the death penalty. How do you explain or how do you convince them the United States needs the death penalty?

MR. KOH: Well, I think the question that you're really asking is, is the death penalty inconsistent with international standards. I would be -- I'm an international lawyer. I've taught at Yale Law School for 15 years. My own view is that there is a standard of international law and that the death penalty is consistent with that standard. So the U.S. practices with regard to the death penalty is fully consistent with international law.

I would also acknowledge that there is a movement in various parts of the world, particularly in Europe, to change the standard and move to a higher standard. And that's where a lot of the focus and energy on the death penalty has come. But I think the fact that there is someone who would want the law to be different or to change means that -- does not mean that our own practices are in some way inconsistent with international standards.

MR. SILVER: We have time for maybe two more. Let's take this one, and then we'll go over there.

Q Lambros Papantoniou, Elettheros Typos, Greek Daily. Mr. Secretary, any comment on the violation of the human rights by the Albanians in Kosovo against the remaining Serbs, as it was reported actually yesterday by the U.N. Commission? And any action from your part to prevent them?

MR. KOH: Well, as you know, Jamie Rubin and Ambassador Chris Hill were there precisely to give the message to the Kosovar Albanians in very unequivocal terms that we will not tolerate or support human rights abuses in the Kosovo area, whoever they are done by, by the Serbs or by the Kosovar Albanians, and that the Kosovar Albanians run a risk of forfeiting the support that they've gotten from the international community unless they take great care to preserve human rights for all Kosovars of whatever ethnic group. I think that was part of the briefing that Jamie Rubin gave today upon his return, and I'd just point you to that.

MR. SILVER: In the back.

Q Olga Krupauerova, Czech Radio. How do you assess the situation with the Roma Community in Central Europe, particularly in

Czech Republic, and the efforts of the government to improve its relations with the Roma, with the Gypsy community?

MR. KOH: I think the conditions of the Roma -- the Roma Sinti minority is of concern throughout Central Eastern Europe and is a legitimate subject of international concern. I know the OSCE high commissioner on minorities, Mr. Max van der Stoel, has been looking extensively into the region -- into this issue in the region, and we think it's a subject that needs to be addressed.

We, ourselves, had talked extensively to the government of the Czech Republic about this issue and had pointed out to them the negative imagery of the wall built around the community in Usti and were very pleased when that wall came down.

We think that the Czech Republic is itself a country which reflects the value of democracy and human rights, with the leadership of President Havel and Foreign Minister Kavan and Deputy Foreign Minister Palach (sp), and we have worked closely with them on a number of issues, not just the Community of Democracies Initiative, but also we have supported them in their effort to win a successful resolution on Cuba last year and also again this year.

I think the Czech Republic has made a very powerful statement. Many members of the current government pointed out that when their government was a non-democratic government, it was the examination of the U.N. Human Rights Commission and similar bodies that gave comfort to the people of the Czech Republic, and that also shone an international spotlight on internal conditions within then- Czechoslovakia, which helped it to open up and bring about a democratic transition.

Now, as you well know, there is no country to which Secretary Albright has warmer feelings than the Czech Republic, and I know that -- from her recent visit, the feelings there are quite mutual. Also, my predecessor, John Shattuck, who was for 5-1/2 years the assistant secretary for this Bureau of Human Rights, is now our ambassador to the Czech Republic and has been working very closely with members of your government on these human rights issues of common concern.

MR. SILVER: And with that, I'd like to express our appreciation to Mr. Koh.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: usinfo.state.gov)

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