Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

May 30, 2016

Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, who served under President Carter from 1977 to 1981.DERIAN PATT

After Jimmy Carter won the election, he nominated Derian to be Coordinator for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs and elevated the post to that of Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs effective August 17, 1977, and Derian served in that capacity for the remainder of the Carter administration. In this post she worked to improve policy coordination on humanitarian issues such as human rights, refugees, and prisoners of war.

Derian was a vocal critic of Jeane Kirkpatrick and of the so-called Kirkpatrick Doctrine during the 1980s, which advocated U.S. support of anticommunist governments around the world, including authoritarian dictatorships, if they went along with Washington’s aims —believing they could be led into democracy by example. Kirkpatrick wrote, “Traditional authoritarian governments are less repressive than revolutionary autocracies.” Derian objected to Kirkpatrick’s characterization of some governments as only “moderately repressive,” arguing that this line of thinking allowed the U.S. to support “a little bit of torture” or “moderate” prison sentences for political dissenters. Derian pointed out that, when it comes to human rights, in terms of morality, credibility and effectiveness, “you always have to play it straight.”

Derian, who had headed an Inter-American Commission on Human Rights delegation in 1979 to investigate reports of widespread human rights abuses in Argentina, returned to Buenos Aires in 1985 to testify in the historic Trial of the Juntas. She was quoted in documents in the National Security Archive as openly accusing military leaders of torture of prisoners at a meeting in Argentina in 1977. An Argentinian journalist, Jacobo Timerman, who was tortured by the junta, credited Derian with saving him from execution. She supported deposed Philippine leader Benigno Aquino and the South Korean dissident Kim Dae-jung. When Kim was elected president she was invited as a special guest to his inauguration.

As the principal source of an October 1987 exposé published in The Nation, Derian revealed that in June 1976 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had secretly given a “green light” of approval to Argentina’s new far-right military rulers for state terrorist policies against a purposefully overblown left-wing guerrilla threat.”It sickened me,” said Derian upon revealing that in 1977, then U.S. Ambassador to Argentina Robert C. Hill reported to her Kissinger’s real role, “that with an imperial wave of his hand, an American could sentence people to death on the basis of a cheap whim. As time went on I saw Kissinger’s footprints in a lot of countries. It was the repression of a democratic ideal.[11]

One of the obituaries, by Bill Minor in the  of 26 May, rightly used the title “Patricia Derian dared lead for human rights”
picture: Patricia Derian at her State Department office in 1977. (Craig Herndon)


BILL MINOR: Patricia Derian dared lead for human rights – Daily Journal

2 Responses to “Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer”

  1. Rodney Lewis Says:



    Level 11, 65 YORK STREET

    SYDNEY 2000

    Mob: 0412 661 346

    Fax: 02 8078 6183



  2. vanBoven Th van (IR) Says:

    Dear Hans,

    On the occasion of the passing away of Patt Derian I had recently an exchange of correspondence with Margo Picken. We still keep a dear and warm recollection of her work as the human rights conscience in the Carter administration. She was a close ally. After the demise of the Carter administation I lost track of her but I do remember that both of us testified in 1985 at the criminal trial of the military junta in Buenos Aires. Thank you very much for including Patt in your posts.

    Cheers, Theo

    ________________________________ Van: Hans Thoolen on Human Rights Defenders Verzonden: maandag 30 mei 2016 08:37 Aan: vanBoven Th van (IR) Onderwerp: [New post] Patt Derian – the rare politician/human rights defender – no longer

    Hans Thoolen posted: “Being a leading politician and human rights defender does not always go together well. Patricia Murphy (“Patt”) Derian was one of the exceptions. She passed away on 20 May 2016 at the age of 86. She was an American civil rights and human rights activist, “

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: