A Conversation with the Public Affairs Officer at WHINSEC

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A School by Any Other Name - by Craig Wiesner

On February 21st, 2013, I had a pleasant and informative conversation with Mr. Lee A. Rials, long-time Public Affairs Officer for WHINSEC (Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation). The conversation was initiated at Mr. Rial's request, after I had written a Tikkun Daily blog post about the school, which was formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA). For decades the school has been accused of having some responsibility for "graduates" (a term Lee and I will debate later in this post) who were later accused of committing atrocities. 

I have spent time with people from Central America who were tortured, who saw their families murdered, and barely escaped death squads during the 1980's and 90's. I've spoken on a panel with one US soldier who was involved in supporting those acts. And I've spent countless hours with religious leaders and other activists who have worked for years to close WHINSEC. I have written about WHINSEC before and my latest post at Tikkun Daily caught Lee Rials' attention. 

Click here to read that original post. 

I'm posting this article on the Reach And Teach web site because I believe it does fulfill our mission to "transform the world through teachable moments." 

Children and adults who become passionate about an issue can and should take any chance they can get to speak with people in power, ask questions, make clear requests for whatever they want, and document the results. While I am absolutely NOT one of those people who likes to claim that we live in the best country in human history, I will say that compared to many countries, we do live in a remarkable place, where the government can be held accountable for its actions and we can, more often than not, get the information we need to form our opinions and inform our actions.

Yes, it may take years and dogged determination, but eventually, in most cases, facts will be revealed.

I'd like to start by saying that Mr. Rials was open, friendly, and at times quite witty, and I am convinced that he is a true believer in the mission of WHINSEC, the people who work there, and the people who attend classes there. He believes they are doing good in the world and that the school has gotten a "bum rap." I shared a first draft of this post with Mr. Rials and have updated this post based on some of his feedback. 

First Teachable Moment: Measure the Effectiveness of Your Tax Dollars at Work

When Mr. Rials reached out to me via email, I was quite surprised. I'd also been surprised over a decade earlier, when I wrote a letter to the then-named School of the Americas and got a response. It turns out that there was a plan for this! In 2005, according to an article at SourceWatch.org, activists who had been charged with tresspassing on the SOA/WHINSEC property (an annual right of passage for activists is to illegally enter the school and get arrested), offered an "SOA Communication" plan as evidence in their trial.

The plan, which according to Mr. Rials had never gotten funded, proposed spending $246,000 to try to counter the growing demand that the school be shut down. One part of the plan was "to track news media coverage of the school worldwide, to create pre-fab letters to the editor to counter negative views and to track the comings and goings of [SOA Watch founder Father Roy] Bourgeois, with the aim of getting an Army representative on the bill to counter the priest's point of view whenever he speaks."

It was Roy Bourgeois' invitation to a delegation to El Salvador that prompted my most recent post about WHINSEC on Tikkun Daily. 

Despite the program never getting funded, Mr. Rials has been a one-man-PR-department for years.

How have the PR campaign and the passage of time worked out for WHINSEC? Mr. Rials and I would agree that the vociferous calls for the school to be closed have diminished along with the number of people getting themselves arrested crossing the threshold of the school's gates each year. Father Roy, recently stripped of his ordination by the Vatican because of his stance on ordaining women in the church (you go Roy!!), has been and continues to be one of the most vocal opponents of WHINSEC. But the number of people joining him at WHINSEC protests has dramatically decreased. To be blunt, some of my activist colleagues who were involved in trying to close the school have died, others have reached an age where they can't keep fighting as they had previously, and, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the abuses of power by our more recent administrations (drone assassinations for example), and other pressing issues have also diverted attention away from the school in Georgia.

Still, when someone like me writes an article about WHINSEC, Mr. Rials' "Google Alert" goes off and he goes into action. In trying to declide what my major emphasis would be for our conversation, I decided to focus on whether the school was delivering "value" to the American people. Basic question: Are America's tax dollars being well spent at WHINSEC? A question that I asked Mr. Rials several different ways boils down to this (which Rick Ufford-Chase, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, suggested I include in my conversation):

Are there any success stories about graduates that WHINSEC can brag about? 

Mr. Rials did not have any success stories to share. And... when I used the word "graduate," Mr. Rials took exception. He pointed out that many people "attend" courses at WHINSEC, but to refer to them as "graduates," according to him, is not accurate. Plus, he told me, that it was unfair to look at a person who had attended a course 30 years ago, and then committed some kind of a crime years later, as a "WHINSEC Graduate."

"I've always been puzzled by the concept that any association with any of these schools (the people listed as students of the SOA would have actually been at the Latin American Training Center-Ground Forces from 1946-1949; the Caribbean Training Center, 1949-1963; and the SOA, 1963-2000) has relevance to behaviors before or later without any further analysis of the nature of the association. My favorite example of the absurdity of this connection is Leopoldo Galtieri. In 1949, when he was a 23-year-old lieutenant, he attended an Engineer Operations Course for a bit less than three months. How can anyone make that relevant to his behavior 32 years later when he was head of the junta ruling Argentina? I have looked at the SOAW database a considerable amount during the years I have been here (SOA records all went to the National Archives when it closed, so that is the only source I have for names pre-2001) and even in the 'notorious graduates' listing have yet to find any indication that anyone used anything--not even the named course subject matter--to commit any crime. 

That leads me to the second point, that with fewer than 300 of more than 60,000 students of these schools actually accused or convicted of serious crimes, what is the issue with the schools? If the schools were teaching anything bad, they were an utter failure at it."

SOAWatch, an organization that has doggedly pursued SOA and WHINSEC, recently filed a lawsuit over the Pentagon's refusal to release the names and other information about 21st Century WHINSEC students. As Mr. Rials points out above, information used to be available which allowed organizations like SOAWatch to investigate and report on allegations of misconduct. Now, that information is no longer available. 

One final quip about using the word "graduate." Mr. Rials told me he had quipped to a German journalist while watching a group of Chilean cadets, that "the cadets were here for only 10 days, but in 10 years would be 'WHINSEC graduates.'"

I thought to myself, wouldn't it be amazing if one of them was getting a Nobel Prize for peacemaking?

Just to show that the folks at WHINSEC are just as guilty of using the term "graduate" as their opposition, note the wording of part of the unfunded communication plan. 


Let's go, though, to the heart of a question I think we should all be asking. Are the American people getting value for the money being spent at WHINSEC? How do the powers-that-be justify the spending if they can't specifically point to a specific return on investment for WHINSEC's graduates (or, um, people who successfully completed some course of study comprising some length of time)?  

I am a graduate of Air Force Basic Training (six weeks), the Defense Language Institute (47 weeks), Cryptologic Linguist School (six months) Air Force NCO Leadership School (four weeks), the US Army Chaplains Lay Leadership Course (two weeks), Department of State East Asian Affairs course (one week), etc..... And I can point to behaviors, actions, ways in which I carried out my work, days, weeks, months, and years later, as direct results of something I was taught in a course during one of those trainings. I saved a fellow airman's life using the Heimlich Maneuver just a few months after I had taken a safety training course! Most importantly, I know that in the case of virtually every type of formal training, there was a feedback loop that reported backwards and forwards so that the effectiveness of training in one place could be judged based on performance in another. 

Mr. Rials said that the main feedback loops for WHINSEC were reports from US commanders in the Northern and Southern Commands on the effectiveness of their cooperative work in countries with people who had attended courses at WHINSEC and:

Our courses enhance the abilities of the students to do the jobs they are already in. The only measure of effectiveness we can see is the continuation of attendance; if we weren't contributing to the performance of students, nations would not send students here. Also, as I said, the State Department and DoD have mechanisms in place to report some statistics on international students who have come to the U.S. for training. That would include Institute students as well as those who have been to one of the many other DoD schools. 

That seems somewhat vague, but perhaps official unclassified reports will shed more light on details of that effectiveness. And, I wouldn't be surprised if there were some other feedback mechanism outside of the Department of Defense and State Departments, perhaps through some other US government three-letter entities, that did, in fact, track WHINSEC graduates in their police, military or political careers.

Remember that we're the United States of America. In God we trust. All others we monitor. 

The take-away from the "show me the money/success" part of my conversation with Mr. Rials is this: If WHINSEC's work is truly valuable to the United States, that value should be easily articulated and demonstrated. Let's ask for a clear and compelling report from the Department of Defense on significant achievements that can be directly attributed to WHINSEC training.

With sequestration in the news today, and budget woes facing our country for a long time to come, are US tax dollars being effectively spent at WHINSEC? Let that be a question asked at the next Congressional hearing on the matter.

Second Teachable Moment: RTFM (Read the _____ Manual)

Whenever possible, don't take word of mouth as evidence. Get your hands on the stuff about which you are complaining, read it (or watch it or listen to it), and then make your case.

Early in my conversation with Mr. Rials, we agreed that curriculum as well as reports made each year about the school are not classified. Therefore, those reports and training manuals should be viewable by the public. I am particularly interested in the instructor manuals and student manuals used in the three week long "Human Rights Instructor's Course." That course is designed to train people to return to their home countries and teach human rights curriculum to their own people. When visiting the WHINSEC web site, this is an area for which WHINSEC is particularly proud, saying that their human rights education efforts are both "ambitious and effective."  

During my talk with Mr. Rials, this was the one place where I felt that he was not being completely frank with me. He indicated that there might not be a single "manual" per se, but that there were lesson plans and materials gleaned from other content taken from here and there. I was both a consumer / user of Army and Air Force training materials AND the developer of courses. There is always a manual. It may be something that is, in fact, a compilation of stuff from all over the place, but there is a compilation. No instructor walks into a classroom and wings it. And, when the course is a "train the trainer," designed to send someone home to teach, that trainer always walks away with an instructor's guide. It would be very instructive (pardon the pun) to have access to those manuals. Mr. Rials has promised to look into getting me course materials. He clarified:

All our instructional materials are unclassified, and all the doctrinal materials (manuals) come from proponents. We develop courses using manuals from DoD and other agencies, exactly the same ones used throughout the U.S. military and other agencies. Instructors (and students) have access to the background material that support the lesson plans, and the complete 'POI' (Program of Instruction) is available here in English and Spanish.   

I'm very interested in the "case studies" referred to in the WHINSEC course catalog describing the human rights training. Mr. Rials mentioned that one case study he knew of involved "false positives" in Colombia. A "false positive" refers to a situation in which innocent civilians have been killed in a military operation, and in order to protect themselves from prosecution, soldiers dress the dead civilians up in rebel uniforms, or plant other evidence to make it look as though the civilians were engaged in hostile acts. 

The course catalog also says that learning the difference between lawful and unlawful orders is covered. Would being ordered to plant evidence on dead civilians be considered an unlawful order? And if so, what is a soldier supposed to do about it?

Yes, I'd love to see those manuals and case studies. Making those manuals public could go a long way in demonstrating the nature of today's WHINSEC.

RTFM is as military a phrase as it is in computer technology circles. That's why when I asked if there was an instructor's manual I already knew the answer, there must be. Now the question is whether we'll get to see it (or something).  

Third Teachable Moment: You Must Remember This, A Kiss Is Just A Kiss, A Name Is Just A Name

Back in the days of my foolish and naive youth, in a letter I wrote to the commander of the School of the Americas (SOA), I suggested that given that the institution had a terrible reputation, if they were truly changing their stripes, they should also change their name. While I can't take credit for it happening, the school did, in fact, change its name. 

One of the ways in which the SOA's name got permanently stained was through the public release of SOA training manuals in the 1990's, which did, in fact, include passages teaching the use of torture. At least 1,000 of those manuals were distributed throughout Central and Latin American. In 1992, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney ordered the recall and destruction of those manuals. 

You may be able to shred and burn manuals, but that stain is impossible to erase, along with the stains of blood and tears that soaked into the soil of El Salvador, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, and other countries during the 1980's and 1990's. There is no question that many of those blood stains were caused by US hands, promoted by US foreign policy.

Mr. Rials pointed out that WHINSEC is but a tiny school, with only a few thousand students attending each year, and that in his view it is unfair to lay the blame for atrocities committed by people who had attended a course or two at some point in history on the then School of the Americas or today's WHINSEC. 

On that score history will eventually decide. The names of those who, to use Mr. Rials' language, "attended" SOA courses who went on to torture and kill innocents can not be erased. Such lists are easily acccessed on the web, just use the search term "SOA Graduates." In fact, Mr Rials did his own analysis of one of the most heinous crimes committed in El Salvador, the murder of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter. I'll share his analysis later in this post. 

There are some, though, who thought that one way to erase that stain or at least move on to other battles was, in fact, to change the school's name. There were others who came up with the response "Different Name, Same Shame." (Remember Blackwater changing its name to XE?) Is WHINSEC a completely different school than the School of the Americas? No. When President Bill Clinton signed the law creating WHINSEC, most of the civilian instructors stayed on. The military instructors, as military instructors do, rotate in and out. Commanders come and commanders go. Today's commandant, according to Mr. Rials, though, was at the School of the Americas before it became WHINSEC, went on to do other things for many years, and came back. And now he's in charge. 

The name change discussion is one place where Mr. Rials takes the greatest offense.

Your last point, about the 'name change' has been a challenge since I got here. I'm a retired Army officer, so I took offense at the implied charges of impropriety of SOA instructors because they were my peers, and I didn't see any valid accusations about what the schools did. But the campaign against the SOA had a part to play in the decision to close it and replace it with WHINSEC (maybe your letter was the catalyst, who knows?). When I say there is not much difference, I'm referring to the fact that we are a military education facility that teaches primarily in Spanish. The law says we are a different entity, the chain of command is different, and so is our mission, if only somewhat. The major differences are two: we focus on the entire Western Hemisphere (we have Canadian and U.S. instructors and students as well as others); and our course mix has changed to be relevant to the needs of our own country and of the partner nations. 

Have things changed?

Unlike the SOA, WHINSEC does work hard to appear as publicly transparent as possible. You can go to their web site and read their mission statement, read their course catalogs, newsletters, and see pictures of attendees and instructors. Mr. Rials invited me to visit and says that he invites many people to come. Rick Ufford-Chase told me about his visit, back when he was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA. That visit consisted of a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation and a brief tour. He was underwhelmed, but he felt that Mr. Rials was earnest in his belief in the school and open and pleasant with his guests. If I were to visit, I'd want unfettered access for at least a few weeks. According to Mr. Rials, they gave such access to a British doctoral candidate named Ruth Blakely, who wrote her dissertation with WHINSEC as her subject. I'd love to see that dissertation so if anyone has access to it and would share a link, that would be great. Click here to read one article in which she is quoted talking about her time at WHINSEC (in which she says that she found no evidence that WHINSEC was advocating torture or human rights abuses) and click here to read another article about her views on our more recent involvement in the "drug wars.".

One clearly negative change on the idea of transparency is being litigated by SOAWatch, as mentioned earlier. The Pentagon no longer releases the names of the students who attend courses there. That makes it impossible for civilians to track them. 

A big question, though, doesn't have a clear answer. Does the school serve a useful purpose? Is keeping it open in the strategic interest of and does it demonstrably advance the security of the United States? Are attendees taught to protect and defend human rights and dignity as the law establishing the school clearly demands, and do those students, in fact, return to their home countries and do so? Seeing the manuals and getting better and clearer answers from the Northern and Southern commanders in Congressional testimony, along with any informtion other agencies of the US government may have about those who have been taught at WHINSEC, including the public release of their names/countries, may help to start to answer those questions. 

Forth Teachable Moment: Be Prepared AND Specific When You Ask Questions

Our conversation was somewhat rambling, but I did have a script. Before you talk to someone in power, be as prepared as possible. Before my conversation I reached out to activists to get some ideas of questions they might want to ask if they had an opportunity for this kind of conversation. Here are some of the specific questions I asked and the answers Mr. Rials provided (paraphrased, not word for word). 

1. Does WHINSEC track graduates, and are there reports about activities of graduates made available to Congress or other oversight groups?

No.

2. Are your mandated annual reports to Congress classified?

No, but those reports are not available online. The law, establishing WHINSEC, also mandated a "Board of Visitors" and their minutes/reports are available online at http://fido.gov/facadatabase/committeemenu.asp?CID=80390

3. In what ways do you measure "success." 

See the details in the discussion above.

4. Is there a school similar to WHINSEC for other hemispheres? 

No. 

5. Do any of your courses include interrogation techniques?

No.

6. Do you teach about the use of drones in any of your courses. 

No. "We have nothing to do with drones whatsoever."

7. Why did you want to talk to me?

"Any time we have a chance to talk to the opposition, we like to do that." 

There were a few questions about torture and assassination that didn't make it into the conversation. Mr. Rials mentioned that I might want to talk to Mr. Antonio Raimondo, who teaches the Human Rights course. I'll save those questions for him!

Fifth Teachable Moment - Identify Your Lens

When you take on an issue and express your opinion about that issue, be open and communicate the lens through which you see the issue. I view the discussion about SOA/WHINSEC through the eyes of a person who has sat with victims of torture and murder. One of my dearest friends lives in constant physical and emotional pain because of the atrocities committed against him and his family during the Salvadoran civil war. His wife suffered terribly while he was locked in a prison, taking care of their children with virtually no means of support. Then the entire family had to flee for their lives the day he was released because they were warned the death squad was on its way. What was done to them and the crimes that were committed against countless others were crimes against humanity that I was taught, as a US military member, were absolutely forbidden. Yet other US troops, in other places, were taught and behaved differently.  

I take Mr. Rials' objections to the charges against SOA/WHINSEC seriously, because I remember how it felt when I had just left the Air Force to hear people I respected telling me that the US government had a hand in such terrible acts. I didn't want to believe them, but have come to know that our government can, has, and will commit what will some day be judged as crimes, in the name of national security. That's why we have to dig and dig and dig when we think something is wrong.

Today we have "drug wars" going on in Colombia and Mexico and the "war against terror" is in full swing all around the world. Drones have been used to kill countless people, including an American citizen. It is our responsibility as citizens to stand up and demand the truth, no matter how long it takes to get to it. 

Mr. Rials also dug, and put together an analysis of the murder of the Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter. Click here to view a PDF of that analysis.

The account of the murders and coverup is chilling. During my time serving in the military, if anyone had ever said anything about partipating in, supporting, condoning, or assisting in acts like these, I would have reported them. Yet I know, for a fact, that our government did condone acts like these in the then war against "communism." Dick Cheney might have ordered the shredding of those damning training manuals in 1992, but he's also the same person who supported water-boarding after September 11th and the photos from Abu Ghraib illustrate that the stains of mistreatment continue to streak our flag.  

Sixth Teachable Moment: Follow Up

Having an opportunity like this is incredibly valuable, but it will have been a waste of time if action does not come out of it. Here are my plans for following up and I invite you to share your comments and suggestions on next steps.

  1. Ask for copies of the Human Rights training manuals (already done)
  2. Ask for an opportunity to speak with Antonio Raimondo (already done)
  3. Share this post and the previous post with Representative Jackie Speier and Senators Boxer and Feinstein
  4. Ask them for access to the last two years of Congressional reports from WHINSEC
  5. Find Ruth Blakely and read her dissertation
  6. Draw my own conclusions from everything I learn and take a stand on whether I think WHINSEC should be closed or remain open

Finally, as a way of thanking Mr. Rials, I'm going to send him a copy of We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures, and ask that he share the book with colleagues at the school. WHINSEC's charter calls on it to teach internationally recognized human rights laws and this book offers a great starting point for having conversations about all of the issues with which activists, members of the "opposition" to the school, political leaders, members of the press, former victims of human rights abuses and their families, and ordinary citizens are concerned.

To finish up this article, I'll share that declaration, to which the United States is a signatory (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt), with all.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - 10 December 1948

PREAMBLE

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

  • All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

  • Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

  • No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

  • Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

  • All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

  • Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

  • (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
  • (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

  • No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
  • (2)Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
  • (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

  • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  • (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  • (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
  • (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

  • Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
  • (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
  • (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

  • Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
  • (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
  • (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
  • (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

  • Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

  • (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
  • (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

  • Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

  • (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
  • (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
  • (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

  • Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.


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