Statement on United States Participation in the 40th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission

February 2, 1984

On February 6 in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Commission will open its 40th session. This important world forum, which authored the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, will meet once again to focus on allegations of human rights violations around the world. It will address a number of important human rights concerns, including the situations in Central America, Afghanistan, and Poland, as well as Soviet abuse of psychiatry. Those deprived of their human rights must have the support of all of us who cherish freedom.

We Americans are bound together not by common ancestry, but by our common blessing of freedom. But too often we forget the price that was paid to win that freedom. Sometimes only a person who has experienced tyranny can fully appreciate freedom's blessings. Such a person is the U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Commission, Richard Schifter, who briefed me today on the Commission's work.

Dick Schifter came to this country as a very young man fleeing Nazi tyranny. Many members of his family, including his father and mother, perished in the Holocaust. From bitter personal experience, Dick understands the meaning of human rights. He knows that the difference between a free and an unfree society can be the difference between life and death. And he also knows that the struggle for human rights is a solemn responsibility and a moral duty of all who love freedom.

As our Representative to the Commission, Dick Schifter has spoken with eloquence and pride of America's commitment to liberty, democracy, and human rights. And he has always insisted on standards of fairness and balance in the U.N. treatment of human rights.

The great struggle in the world today is not over oil or grain or territory, but over freedom. We believe every man, woman, and child on this Earth is born with God-given rights that are theirs by virtue of their humanity.

That is the American dream, and in articulating it so forcefully and effectively, Dick Schifter has become a spokeman for a more civilized world. As he prepares once again to head our delegation to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, I wish him Godspeed and all success.