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New Report Says White House 'Obstructed' Human Rights Issues

By Robin Wright
Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration this year has "actively obstructed" human rights efforts as well as new mechanisms to enforce internationally accepted standards, according to a highly critical new report released here Thursday by Human Rights Watch.

The report says U.S. actions particularly have been hurtful on three issues now on the front line of the global human rights campaign: child soldiers, land mines and an international criminal court.

The administration practice of ignoring human rights in some areas and adopting a "selective" commitment based on economic convenience or strategic interests in others now poses "a growing threat" to human rights in key parts of the world, most vividly in China and Central Africa, charges "Human Rights Watch World Report 1998."

"U.S. arrogance suggests that in Washington's view, human rights standards should be embraced only if they codify what the U.S. government already does, not what the United States ought to achieve," concludes the report, issued to mark Human Rights Day on Wednesday.

The State Department Thursday had no response to specific charges in the report but spokesman James Rubin disputed its tone and conclusions, saying: "I think that if you look around the world and you ask the people of the world which nation they look to as to be the beacon for human rights, democracy, and freedom, there's no question the answer will be the United States."

Because of what it claims is a desultory U.S. performance, Human Rights Watch, an independent monitoring group based in New York, calls on other countries to move ahead without the United States.

America is one of only two countries not to have ratified the international Convention on Rights of the Child. U.S. conservatives bitterly oppose the convention, fearing it will usurp parental authority and increase government control over child-rearing issues.