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Four politicians and professors last night openly denounced violations of human rights and cited the need for policies favoring the spread of Western democracy.
Most of the panelists at the Institute of Politics Forum blamed the Reagan Administration for counteracting a progressive human rights policy established by former President Jimmy Carter.
"A combination of anti-Communist and pro-military ideas has led to a basic alteration of the human rights policies that the Congress had adopted under the Carter Administration," said Father Robert Drinan, a former Congressman and president of Americans for Democratic Action.
The forum, entitled "Human Rights and American Foreign Policy," was the first in a weeklong series of events organized by Harvard-Radcliffe Amnesty International to educate the Harvard community on human rights issue.
Drinan also assailed the Reagan Administration for being more concerned with "cultivating friends" than denouncing human rights violators, and he cited the Administration's recent decisions involving multi-national bank loans to Argentina and El Salvador as an example of its "dismal record."
William Griffith, Professor of International Relations at MIT, advocated a more cautious approach to American foreign policy. Griffith said that the ideal foreign policy blends human rights and "realpolitik," but that "there can be no firm decisions as to the mixture." He added, however, that individuals can--and should--deviate from governmental decisions.
"What we need are more people to expose those who oppose human rights in public and private," he said.
However, Raymond Gastil, a representative from Freedom House, a conservative think-tank, rose to the defense of the current Administration. He said that the United States has been effective in consistently condemning oppression wherever it occurs and fostering the spread of democracy through preferential support and economic and to democratic bound nations. However, he insisted that United States involvement be kept at a minimum.
We must respect the right of other nations to establish their own priorities and their own values as they see them," he said, adding, "I would be most careful of pushing a strong, positive human rights policy until we're sure how to do that".
The most ardent defender of human rights was John Healey, executive director of Amnesty International. Although Healey repeatedly joined in lambasting the Reagan Administration for its ineffective human rights policies, he focused more on human than political issues.
"No one should suffer torture anywhere in the world and not have anyone to look out for him," he said. "If it's your mother who's being tortured you don't want her to be at the bottom of the list."
In addition to the panel, HRAI is sponsoring a campaign this week to mail out postcards requesting political freedom. Yesterday, the first day of the drive, more than 2500 cards were sent out. HRAI co-chairman Norman E Yamada'84 said.
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