MAY 26, 1948
NEW YORK, Tuesday—Yesterday, at the opening of the session of the Human Rights Commission, the Russian delegate declared that the commission should express disapproval of the United States because its officials had held up the visas of the delegates from the Ukraine and Byelorussia and had asked them to fill out a long questionnaire—a questionnaire patterned on the one that the USSR asks our Embassy officials and other nationals to answer before they are allowed to enter Russia.
It was pointed out that this same thing had happened two months ago to the Yugoslav delegate to the Social Commission and that assurances were given then that it would not happen again. It was said that we do not own the United Nations simply because the headquarters happen to be situated in this country, and that we must comply with our treaty obligations to the United Nations.
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The Russian delegate was, of course, entirely correct in that there was no excuse for the fact that our consuls and Embassy officials had not received instructions that delegates to the U.N. were to be granted visas without delay and should not be required to fill out the customary questionnaires as to political beliefs, etc.
On the other hand, I think it was a very good thing to have it brought out so clearly that this incident was caused by the fact that Russia has denied American officials free entry, has obliged them to fill out questionnaires, and then has held them up, not for a few weeks, but for several months. This naturally caused so much irritation among our officials that it resulted in the infringement of the rights of delegates to the United Nations—which, of course, was not intended by our Government. It is difficult to control the actions of individuals who are being constantly irritated and baited; and the way in which nations act towards each other is without question going to be reflected in individual actions, which may not be justifiable but which are nevertheless quite human.
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The Russian delegate proceeded to hint that non-agreement with a suggestion he made meant that the other delegates to the Human Rights Commission were afraid to express their opinions in opposition to the United States. That was rather funny, because practically every person on the commission, at one time or another, has differed violently with the United States. But it seems to me sad that any of us say things of that kind about our colleagues. I hope that all the delegates, including those from the Eastern European countries, will always feel entirely free to express their opinions.
This incident is, of course, regrettable as it has delayed the arrival of two delegates and thus will delay and probably impede the work of the commission. We will have less time for deliberation and we will begin the session with feelings of irritation. One hopes that mistakes such as this may be avoided in the future and that increasing freedom of intercourse between countries may be developed—which would make such incidents impossible.