16 August : Elvis Presley, US singer and performer
27 March: 574 passengers and crew died in a runway collision involving two Boeing jumbo jets, one American, one Dutch, at Los Rodeos airport, Tenerife, in the worst disaster in airline history
Approved: approval of financing of neutron bomb by U.S. Senate
Opened: Paris: The Pompidou National Centre for Art and Culture
|Human Rights Spotlight|
Now a cause almost universally endorsed, even if only in rhetoric, human rights were given extra media attention this year after Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, was awarded the 1977 Nobel Peace Prize in December.
Shortly after that, the group released a report which accused 116 UN member nations of imprisoning people solely for their beliefs or ethnic origins. Partly due to the organisation's lack of governmental ties, Ai had helped free 10,000 of these prisoners. However, political clout was also exercised for the benefit of human rights when U.S. President Jimmy Carter used America's political and economic influence to discourage human rights abuses.
And Carter was not merely talking. Policies were altered and Argentina, Uruguay and Ethiopia were the first to lose American aid. However, the Carter doctrine faced numerous challenges. The first was that America's own human rights record was far from spotless: AI's report condemned the unjust persecution of Blacks and American Indians. Another problem was the unclear yet sweeping definition of human rights. Yet another inconsistency was that of geo-political pragmatism: U.S. allies, such as the Shah's Iran, were subject to less criticism. In other cases, criticisms and sanctions were either ineffective or counterproductive, such as efforts to curb the USSR crackdown on dissidents which resulted in even harsher repression.
Nonetheless, there were successes. Partly as a result of U.S. pressure, less Argentines "disappeared" because of state -sponsored death squads and political prisoners went free in many countries, including 35,000 between 1977 and 1980 in Indonesia alone. At the same time, more Soviet Jews were allowed to emigrate, from 10,000 in 1976 to 51,000 in 1979. Meanwhile, emboldened students in Czechoslovakia founded a group called Charter 77 which was devoted to monitoring the government's adherence to the Helsinki Accords and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among the persecuted leaders of Chapter 77, Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright, would one day become president of his nation.