U.S. Asks Action by U.N. Body on Outlawing Religious Intolerance
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U.S. Asks Action by U.N. Body on Outlawing Religious Intolerance

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The United States Government today called on the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to give highest priority to the adoption of a long-pending draft Declaration and draft International Convention on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance.

That request was voiced on the first day of the Commission’s three-week session, which opened today, by Morris B. Abram, the American representative on the Commission. Mr. Abram is also president of the American Jewish Committee.

Addressing the Commission as it was about to consider a long 20-point agenda, Mr. Abram told the body that it was high time that an effort be made to close the gap between practice and the high principles of the 18-year-old Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That Declaration was adopted in 1948.

Mr. Abram proposed that, in view of the heavy agenda, the current session give priorities first to the draft instruments outlawing religious intolerance, then to a proposal banning statutes of limitations for the trial and punishment of war criminals. He also called for action on the plan to observe the International Year for Human Rights in 1968, and implementation of a previous decision to name a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Mr. Abram’s insistence on foremost priority to the religious freedoms issue was considered by most delegates on the 21-member Commission as a demand that the Soviet Union halt its campaign, under way since 1960, to keep the U.N. from speaking out against religious intolerance.

The U.S. delegate, in his opening address, took other oblique steps against the USSR, without mentioning the Soviet Government. Noting that another agenda item deals with freedom of information, he called upon all countries to permit “the right to publish domestically, and to send abroad, any idea, paper, book — fiction or nonfiction, parody, camouflaged satire or caricature — no matter how favorable or unfavorable to one’s government.”

All understood Mr. Abram to be referring, in that context, to a recent case in Moscow where two authors were given heavy prison terms for writing critical works published outside the USSR. “We are not really sure,” he said, “that a particular human right subscribed to on paper means the same thing to each nation.”

Another item on the Commission’s agenda, in addition to those pinpointed for priority by Mr. Abram, is a proposal for implementing the recently adopted Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Intolerance. That instrument was opened for signature only yesterday, with Israel among the first to sign the document.

The agenda includes also drafts of steps to be taken to insure for all people everywhere their right to leave their own country or return thereto — aimed partially at giving Soviet Jews the right to emigrate; and various moves to insure protection for all minorities and the elimination of various types of prejudice.

One item not on the agenda may be added, in the opinion of some of the Commission members. That would attempt to name anti-Semitism specifically as a prejudice to be formally condemned. Efforts to pass such a condemnation as part of the Convention against racism were defeated by the Soviet Union last fall.

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