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Release: Jan. 24, 2000

Human rights scholar criticizes Sen. Jesse Helms' address to United Nations

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Burns Weston, University of Iowa College of Law emeritus professor, in a sharply written letter to U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms, criticized the politician for his comments before the United Nations Security Council about its effectiveness and Americans' perceptions of the organization.

Helms, R-N.C., who Thursday appeared before the council to promote cooperation between the U.S. and the world body, made several scathing remarks, among them that U.N. officials are "crybabies who whine about not receiving enough of the American people's money." According to several national news reports, the Senator also said Americans feel "a lack of gratitude" from the world organization.

Weston, considered a preeminent human rights scholar and writing on behalf of the UI Center for Human Rights, made the contents of his letter public Friday.

"I write to inform you that your arrogant and isolationist comments to the United Nations Security Council on Jan. 20, 2000 do not reflect the views of all the American people, probably not even a majority of us," Weston wrote to the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Weston says the newly created University of Iowa Center for Human Rights supports and values the United Nations.

"We believe that the United States must partner with others in global institutions and that international governmental institutions such as the United Nations are necessary to achieve a world community in which peace and justice can be achieved and sustained for all.

"Senator Helms, do not suggest that you speak for the American people. You do not. You certainly do not speak for us," Weston further wrote.

Last year Weston became the director of the UI Center for Human Rights, which was created to address human rights issues locally and abroad through direct action and other means.

He recently edited "The Future of International Human Rights" with Stephen P. Marks, Harvard University professor of health and human rights. The book contains 13 analytical essays from various human rights scholars about the future of international human rights.