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AU should press Mugabe over elections

The United States deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour Erica Barks-Ruggles said Washington should press the African Union to exert more influence over Zimbabwe and press for international monitors to observe the March 2008 elections.

Zimbabwe was due to hold elections in a month and President Robert Mugabe had said he would not invite observers from countries that had imposed sanctions on his country because they had already made their minds up.

The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2002.

Barks-Ruggles also expressed deep US disappointment over the invitation of Robert Mugabe to the EU – Africa Summit in Lisbon in December 2007.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted the summit because Mugabe had been invited to the summit.

Portugal was forced to invite Mugabe because African countries said they would not attend if he was excluded.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 08LJUBLJANA116, DRL DAS BARKS-RUGGLES HOLDS HUMAN RIGHTS

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

08LJUBLJANA116

2008-03-07 07:20

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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 LJUBLJANA 000116

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2018

TAGS: PHUM PREL EUN SI

SUBJECT: DRL DAS BARKS-RUGGLES HOLDS HUMAN RIGHTS

CONSULTATIONS WITH SLOVENIAN EU PRESIDENCY

 

 

Classified By: CDA Maryruth Coleman for reasons 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (U) SUMMARY: On February 15, Deputy Assistant Secretary

for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Erica

Barks-Ruggles and Director of Office of Human Rights,

Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Bureau of International

Organizations, Doug Rohn held bilateral and U.S.-EU

consultations with Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

officials. Barks-Ruggles and Rohn met with State

Secretary/Political Director Matjaz Sinkovec, MFA Director

 

SIPDIS

General Anita Pipan, COTRA Chair Roman Kirn, COLAT Chair

Stefan Bogdan Salej, COHOM Chair Smiljana Knez, MFA OSCE

Office Director Damjan Bergant, and EUROMED Chair Veronika

Stabej to discuss U.S. and EU priorities for international

human rights policy, United Nations Human Rights Council

7th Session priorities, human rights dialogues and

consultations, and other issues. END SUMMARY

 

——————————————— ——–

U.S. Priorities for International Human Rights Policy

——————————————— ——–

 

Prisoners of Conscience Declaration

———————————–

 

2. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Rohn discussed the proposal for a

joint U.S.-EU declaration and public affairs event at the

UN in New York relating to prisoners of conscience.

Barks-Ruggles emphasized the importance of having the event

focus on countries that have atrocious human rights

records, but have not been scrutinized in recent years by

the UN, such as Cuba, Burma, and Zimbabwe. COHOM Chair

Smiljana Knez stated that due to recent COHOM meetings

there had been little time to review the U.S. draft

declaration and the side event non-paper, but that she

expected full comments from EU colleagues soon. Knez noted

that initial comments from colleagues had raised two

concerns: 1) that this effort not be interpreted as

infringing on the independence of special rapporteurs); and

2) that the declaration and event should not focus on any

one country, but should have a global focus. Knez also

asked why the declaration and event should not be carried

out in the HRC in Geneva rather than in the UN Third

Committee in New York.

 

3. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Rohn agreed that special

rapporteurs must maintain their independence, but also

cited U.S. concerns that special rapporteurs are not giving

equal attention to all countries. They agreed that the

declaration and event should have a broad focus, but

stressed the importance of highlighting the most egregious

cases including Cuba and Burma. On the location,

Barks-Ruggles pointed out that when this project was first

conceived the Portuguese EU presidency advised that with a

focus on Cuba and other gross violators, this effort would

not succeed in Geneva due to the make-up of the HRC.

Pursuing this effort in New York would allow for positive

involvement by all countries – not just HRC member states –

and could lead to a resolution at the next UN General

Assembly. Knez promised to be in touch and to relay

additional EU comments as soon as she received them.

 

4. (C) COTRA Chair and Head of the MFA Division for the

Americas, Ambassador Roman Kirn stressed that Slovenia

would like to see the U.S. in the HRC. He noted that

Slovenia decided to run last year because of its upcoming

turn as EU president and because of a desire to see change

in the HRC. He said that Slovenia has high expectations

for progress and needs like-minded partners such as the

U.S. to help fix the Council. Barks-Ruggles assured Kirn

that the U.S. has not thrown in the towel on the HRC and

works with others to improve the HRC, but stressed

continuing skepticism from the U.S. She underlined the need

for the universal peer review process starting in April to

be meaningful.

 

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 002 OF 008

 

 

5. (C) Barks-Ruggles stressed the EU needs to join in

pressing for the renewal of the mandate for the Independent

Expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

 

6. (C) Regarding a possible resolution on Sri Lanka, Knez

stated that the HRC will probably keep it in reserve as a

threat against further deterioration of human rights. Knez

noted that EU political directors will travel to Sri Lanka

in mid-March. She also stated that Slovenia and the EU

strongly support the effort to open an office of UN High

Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour in Sri Lanka,

despite the government’s poor treatment of her during her

visit. Knez pointed out that Sri Lanka will soon be

subjected to the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (Note:

at the May UPR session, end note) process in the HRC and

that she hoped that it would bring new focus and pressure

to the issue. Barks-Ruggles stated that the U.S. shares

these concerns and has sent a firm message to the

government of Sri Lanka on the need to improve its human

rights record.

 

7. (C) Knez noted the need to press for human rights

improvements in Kenya and would not rule out the

possibility of calling a special session of the HRC, nor

would she exclude the possibility of sanctions. She voiced

strong support for the efforts currently being made on the

ground in Kenya. Barks-Ruggles noted that Secretary Rice

would travel to Kenya to support the efforts of former UN

Secretary General Kofi Annan to broker peace. Knez also

 

SIPDIS

noted that the mandate for Somalia must be extended. She

added that the HRC may issue a declaration soon.

 

HRC Thematic Initiatives

————————

 

8. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Rohn stressed that although the

U.S. shares the EU’s concerns on religious intolerance, the

U.S. could not support an EU resolution on religious

intolerance that contained problematic references to hate

speech that cross U.S. Constitutional lines and impinge on

freedom of speech. Barks-Ruggles and Rohn urged the EU to

revert to the traditional, previously agreed language on

hate speech, a move that would allow the U.S. to support

the next resolution on eliminating religious intolerance.

Knez stated that she would relay these concerns to EU

partners, but again stressed that the EU always works at

the level of the lowest common denominator and tends to

balance between active and cautious positions.

 

9. (C) Knez raised the Mexican initiative of promoting

human rights in the fight against terrorism and noted that

they intend to raise this at the HRC as well.

Barks-Ruggles stated that the U.S. is concerned about

duplication on this issue in the UNGA Third Committee where

Mexico has run this resolution for years and the HRC, and

is urging Mexico to refrain from introducing the resolution

at the HRC. Knez said that she thought it was too late to

avoid its introduction in Geneva and expressed concern that

the consequence could be worse than mere duplication – it

could lead to deteriorating language. She also noted that

the Mexicans have expressed great enthusiasm for moving

items from the Third Committee to the HRC.

 

HRC Institutions – Universal Periodic Review

——————————————— —————

 

10. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Rohn made clear to all MFA

officials that the U.S. is skeptical but hopeful that the

new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process of the HRC will

be a real innovation that will lead to more robust reviews

of serious human rights abusers. The U.S. is particularly

concerned that certain nations are attempting to dumb down

the process in order to avoid close scrutiny.

Barks-Ruggles also stressed that UPR should not swamp the

High Commissioner for Human Rights nor intrude upon her

independence. Kirn expressed strong support for the UPR

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 003 OF 008

 

 

process, stating that it is a real opportunity to examine

human rights in all countries. Knez noted that there is an

on-going discussion in the EU on the UPR process, but that

efforts are being made to ensure that the EU avoids acting

as a block. Although EU nations want to work in “light

coordination” in order to burden share, they do not wish to

be seen as a block. Knez affirmed that the independence of

the High Commissioner is an important priority for the EU,

but that this must be a joint effort that also involves

coordination with Latin America, Asia, and others. MFA

Director General Anita Pipan expressed appreciation for

U.S. support for UPR and noted that the EU has invested a

great deal in UPR to ensure that it is an effective

mechanism, including outreach to countries that lack

resources to effectively fight human rights abuses. Knez

stated that the first UPR session in April will be

important as it will set a precedent.

 

HRC Elections

————-

 

11. (C) Barks-Ruggles stated that although we have not yet

received the list of candidates for the next round of HRC

elections, the U.S. is concerned that Zambia and Ghana are

rotating off the HRC.   She also noted that there are

indications that both Egypt and Senegal are interested in

running for the HRC presidency. Knez agreed with her that

an Egyptian presidency could be disastrous for the HRC.

Barks-Ruggles suggested that the Egyptians need to

understand the unwanted scrutiny that the HRC presidency

will bring to their domestic human rights situation. Pipan

agreed with this assessment and suggested close

coordination between the EU and the U.S. to ensure a

positive composition of the HRC. When asked for updates on

HRC candidacies, Knez revealed that the Czech Republic had

just announced its intention to withdraw its candidacy due

to pressure from other EU states. She also stated that

Africa has yet to announce its candidates but opined that

either Botswana or Mozambique would be good candidates.

 

12. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Rohn urged Slovenia to support

the U.S. candidate for the HRC Advisory Committee, Andre

Surena. Sinkovec indicated that he would have Slovenia’s

support. (Note: it was unclear that Sinkovec knew anything

about the election and his statement of support could be in

spirit rather than in fact. End note.)

 

13. (C) Rohn urged Slovenia to give close scrutiny to the

recently announced list of candidates for the 14 HRC

Special Rapporteur terms that will soon expire. He

expressed U.S. concern that none of seven U.S. nominees

had made the short list. While some of the final

candidates are very qualified, Rohn noted that others

threaten to bring a very unbalanced perspective to what

should be an objective office. Knez promised to study the

list closely and to keep U.S. concerns in mind.

 

OSCE/ODIHR – Russia

——————-

 

14. (C) Regarding the Organization for Security and

Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Barks-Ruggles said the U.S.

supported the independent decision made by the Office for

Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to decline

Russia’s invitation to observe the March presidential

election due to overly restrictive conditions demanded by

the GoR. Although MFA officials agreed with Barks-Ruggles’

assessment that Russia has played a very negative role in

the OSCE, they said it would be necessary to discuss

Russia’s objections to ODIHR missions in order to avoid a

complete stagnation of the organization. Damjan Bergant,

Director of the OSCE Office at the MFA and former DCM to

the Slovenian OSCE mission, argued that the current

conflict with Russia over ODIHR missions arises out of two

factors: personality conflicts between ODIHR Director

Christian Strohal and the Russian delegation and the

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 004 OF 008

 

 

Russian perception of unequal focus by ODIHR observation

missions. He also expressed concern regarding the

difficulty of arguing with some of Russia’s legal

arguments, noting that the Russians are correct in certain

aspects of their legal analysis. Bergant suggested that

the West needs to be flexible in order to find a solution

that will both protect current missions, but also allow for

a review of observation rules. He offered that Slovenia

could play a positive role by facilitating a discussion

that could allow for change without sacrificing principals.

 

15. (C) Barks-Ruggles responded that we should be wary

about Russian demands for “reform,” and stressed that

OSCE/ODIHR election observation standards are the gold

standard for the world and should not be diluted. Pipan

agreed, but suggested that Russia’s call for change could

be an opportunity to strengthen OSCE/ODIHR standards even

further. Knez suggested that the message to Russia should

also be that it is so strong it has no reason to fear

opening itself to civil society and media.

 

OSCE/ODIHR – Kazakhstan

———————–

 

16. (C) Barks-Ruggles cited U.S. concerns that Kazakhstan

live up to its promised reforms before taking the OSCE

chairmanship in 2010. Director General Pipan stated that

Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship could have great potential

and that it was important to help Kazakhstan to implement

its promises. She also noted that Kazakhstan had recently

prepared a paper asking for closer relations with the EU

and that the EU is inclined to react positively.

Barks-Ruggles assured Pipan of U.S. support for Kazakh

reform efforts, but stressed it must follow up its promises

with actions.

 

OSCE/ODIHR – Slovenian Candidate for ODIHR Director

——————————————— ——

 

17. (C) State Secretary Sinkovec and Director General Pipan

put in a plug for the Slovenian candidate for the ODIHR

directorship, Janez Lenarcic. Bergant affirmed that

Lenarcic would not leave his current post as State

Secretary for EU Affairs until after the close of the

 

SIPDIS

presidency and stressed that in addition to U.S. support,

Slovenia would ask that the U.S. lobby on his behalf.

Barks-Ruggles stated that she would pass the message.

 

Support Needed for Upcoming Elections – Iraq and

Afghanistan

——————————————— —————

 

18. (C) Barks-Ruggles thanked Slovenia for the EU pledge to

provide $20 million in assistance to the United Nations

Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and thanked Slovenia

for its debt forgiveness and assistance to Iraq. She noted

that the upcoming Iraqi elections will require substantial

support from the international community and urged Slovenia

as the EU Presidency to work with the GOI, the UN and the

U.S. to ensure the needed resources for elections are

available.

 

19. (C) Noting ongoing debates in Afghanistan on the form

of future elections, Barks-Ruggles stressed that the U.S.

is not taking a position but is working to ensure support

for the elections is sufficient. Knez gave assurances that

Slovenia and the EU support positive elections in both Iraq

and Afghanistan, but stressed the need to look beyond the

elections, noting that they are a critical part of the

process, but not the end goal.

 

Country Specific Issues

———————–

 

Iran

—-

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 005 OF 008

 

 

 

20. (C) Barks-Ruggles and Knez agreed that the human rights

situation in Iran has deteriorated significantly.

Barks-Ruggles outlined U.S. policy, noting that after the

elections the U.S. will issue a strong statement on the

entire process’ failure to meet international norms for

democratic elections, and urged that the EU do the same.

Knez noted that there is some debate within COHOM regarding

whether to reengage in a human rights dialogue with Iran,

with some arguing for reengagement and others insisting on

Iran first taking substantial steps based on past dialogues

before any further engagement occurs. Barks-Ruggles

strongly urged the latter.

 

Burma

—–

 

21. (C) Barks-Ruggles stated that the U.S. has been

pressing UN Special Envoy to Burma Ibrahim Gambari to give

the Burmese regime a deadline for starting a real dialogue

with the opposition, including ASSK and the NLD, and ethnic

groups. Knez affirmed that the EU is 100 percent on the

same page with the U.S. regarding Burma. She noted COHOM

disappointment with the brief length of the visa Special

Rapporteur Paulo Pinheiro received from the Burmese

regime. She does not expect any change in the message

Pinheiro will present to the HRC upon his return from Burma

in March, if he is allowed to go. Knez stressed that

regional players such as China and India must do more and

noted that China has recently shown positive signs.

 

Cuba

—-

 

22. (C) Discussions turned to Cuba at many points

throughout the day, with Barks-Ruggles repeatedly stressing

the need to avoid a simple Castro to Castro transition and

to help facilitate real political dialogue on the island.

Kirn affirmed that the issue of political prisoners is

always very high on the list of EU priorities for Cuba. Hestated that both the EU and individual EU member sates –

even those one might not expect – press te Cuban regime on

this issue. But he acknowledge that EU discussions

regarding Cuba take place wthin the EU common foreign

policy framework and herefore it is not always easy to

reach agreement. State Secretary Sinkovec mentioned that

he may visit Cuba in the run-up to the EU – Latin America

and Caribbean Summit in May.

 

23. (C) COLAT Chair and MFA Special Representative to Latin

America Ambassador Stefan Bogdan Salej requested greater

clarification on U.S. human rights policy in Cuba, stating

that there is much misunderstanding in the EU on this

issue. He also noted that all EU missions, even the

Spanish, press Cuba to release political prisoners, and

stressed that this is the basis for EU common policy.

Salej stated that a positive Cuban transition will only

occur if the EU, the U.S., and other important players such

as Brazil, Mexico, and other Latin American countries work

together to show Cuba that relations with the international

community will only improve with human rights

advancements.

 

24. (C) In her meeting with Knez, Barks-Ruggles inquired

about the EU Common Position on Cuba that will come up in

June. Knez stated that the usual problems will apply and

that it is still too early to predict what would be the

result of the discussions. However, she did say that the

EU wants Cuba to demonstrate cooperation with the

international community by inviting special rapporteurs to

the island. Knez stated that although it would be

understandable if Cuba began by inviting less controversial

rapporteurs, such as those who deal with housing or food,

it would take the invitation of more critical rapporteurs

to convince the EU that Cuba is taking human rights more

seriously. Barks-Ruggles stressed that the U.S. hopes to

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 006 OF 008

 

 

see the EU Common Position preserved.

 

Belarus

——-

 

25. (C) Barks-Ruggles noted rumors that Germany may press

for a lifting of EU sanctions against Belarus due to the

recent release of several political prisoners. Knez stated

that the EU is very cautious regarding Belarus and wishes

to see the release of all political prisoners. She said

that she had not closely followed the internal discussions

on sanctions, but that she agrees that sanctions should not

be dropped based on the release of three prisoners.

 

Zimbabwe

——–

 

26. (C) Barks-Ruggles expressed deep U.S. disappointment in

the invitation of Robert Mugabe to the EU – Africa Summit.

She noted that we need to be press the AU to exert more

influence over Zimbabwe and press for international

monitors to observe the March 29 elections. Knez agreed,

noting that the intervention of a key player such as South

Africa is necessary.

 

Uzbekistan

———-

 

27. (C) At her lunch with Pipan, Barks-Ruggles informed the

Director General that the U.S. is skeptical but hopeful

that the EU can make progress with Uzbekistan, and stressed

the need to push Uzbekistan to take concrete and positive

action to improve human rights. She inquired about reports

that the EU may lift sanctions this spring. Knez stated

that she had not heard about any plans to lift sanctions

and that she agreed that it would not be wise. She stated

that there will be a sanctions discussion in either March

or April before the EU dialogue with Uzbekistan in May.

 

————-

EU Priorities

————-

 

EU Guidelines on Human Rights

—————————–

 

28. (C) Knez listed the EU Guidelines on Human Rights as

being: children and armed conflict; promotion of

international humanitarian law; the death penalty; human

rights defenders; and torture and cruel, inhuman or

degrading treatment or punishment. Regarding the guideline

on the death penalty, Knez stated that the EU is currently

working on Saudi Arabia, Cuba, and Iran. She also noted

that the EU is particularly concerned about the present

case of the young Afghani journalism student who has

received a death sentence for alleged blasphemy against

Islam. Knez pointed out that this case clearly falls under

the EU guideline, but that at present the EU has decided to

take a quiet approach through a private demarche to Afghani

President Hamid Karzai urging him to commute the sentence.

However, Knez noted that there are some in the EU who are

pressing the EU to go public with its concerns. She stated

that the EU would discuss the issue at the February 18

GAERC. She also affirmed that the EU will continue to push

for the global abolishment of the death penalty.

 

29. (C) Regarding human rights defenders, Knez revealed

that the EU is building on the German initiative to

facilitate visas for human rights defenders, with a key

goal being harmonization of visa processes for fast

admission of human rights defenders who are under threat to

all EU countries. She noted that the EU is interested in

coordinating with the U.S. to assist human rights defenders

on the ground. Barks-Ruggles noted that the U.S. had

initiated a global human rights defenders fund that is now

successfully providing small grants to human rights

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 007 OF 008

 

 

defenders to cover medical care, travel, and other forms of

assistance. She offered a briefing at upcoming troika

COHOM meetings in Washington.

 

UNHRC 7th Session Priorities

—————————-

 

Human Rights Dialogues and Consultations

—————————————-

 

China

—–

 

30. (C) Knez stated that the EU – China dialogue will take

place in Ljubljana in mid-May and will again feature a

seminar. The dialogue will focus on freedom of expression,

human rights defenders, and the right to health, while

seminar topics will be protection of children’s rights and

the right to health. Barks-Ruggles raised the Human Rights

Exchange (HRE) scheduled for late March and offered to have

DRL’s China expert Susan O’Sullivan attend the upcoming

COHOM troika meeting in order to discuss the HRE.

 

Russia

——

 

31. (C) Knez addressed the upcoming EU – Russia dialogue in

April by revealing that these dialogues are far more

frustrating than those carried out with China. She

expressed bewilderment with Russia’s extreme paranoia

towards civil society.

 

African Union

————-

 

32. (C) Knez stated that exploratory talks between the EU

and the African Union (AU) had revealed good will and good

structures within the AU, but that there is a huge gap

between AU aspirations and its capabilities and therefore

the AU will need a great deal of support. She noted that

when the EU – AU dialogue begins, there will be a heavy

focus on capacity building. She requested close

coordination between the EU and the U.S. to avoid

duplication and to create synergy. Barks-Ruggles agreed.

 

EUROMED

——-

 

33. (C) Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (EUROMED) Chair

Veronika Stabej noted that the group has not yet carried

out the expected restructuring, but is under new pressure

to do so due to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s EU for

the Mediterranean initiative. She stated that,

nonetheless, the Barcelona Process continues and that

EUROMED has been able to maintain a positive dialogue on

human rights. Stabej asserted that Slovenia can be a

positive player in this forum (the only body besides the UN

in which both Israel and the Palestinian Territories

participate) because Slovenia does not carry any historical

baggage in the Mediterranean.

 

34. (C) Barks-Ruggles emphasized the importance of

supporting civil society in many of the EUROMED member

states, especially by helping civil society to strengthen

its networks. Stabej fully agreed. She stated that the

Anna Lind Euro-Mediterranean Foundation is serving well as

a network of networks in the region and noted that the

Slovenian Peace Institute currently heads the foundation.

 

Comment

——-

 

35. (C) Throughout the human rights consultations,

Slovenian officials demonstrated a strong interest and

dedication to human rights and a willingness to cooperate

with the U.S. on a host of issues. They will likely

 

LJUBLJANA 00000116 008 OF 008

 

 

continue to be a positive influence in the HRC and in their

role as EU President. However, the seemingly innocent

questions put forth by State Secretary Sinkovec in his

introductory meeting with Barks-Ruggles and Rohn may reveal

the few areas where the U.S. – EU relationship on human

rights will continue to hit small bumps in the road.

Sinkovec questioned whether progress in Africa was

possible; he noted that he is more optimistic about Cuba

and Burma than countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe. He

mentioned that he will likely travel to Cuba and Venezuela

in advance of the EU – Latin America and Caribbean Summit

in May. He also inquired how we can balance human rights,

civil liberties, and the need for security. Lastly, he

asked whether the use of the death penalty has been an

effective tool against crime in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Although Slovenian officials appear distrustful of Russian

intentions in ODIHR, they seem more willing to engage in a

debate that could end in results that neither one of us

wants. End Comment.

 

36. (U) DRL DAS Erica Barks-Ruggles has cleared on this

cable.

 

COLEMAN

 

(6 VIEWS)

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