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Sun May 29, 2016, 06:07 PM

Patricia Derian, Carter administration diplomat who made human rights a priority, dies at 86.

Patricia Derian, a civil rights veteran who tangled with repressive dictators as President Jimmy Carter’s chief advocate on behalf of human rights abroad, died on Friday at her home in Chapel Hill, N.C. She was 86.

Her husband, Hodding Carter III (who served as Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs during the Carter administration), said the cause was Alzheimer’s disease.

Ms. Derian had been deputy director of Mr. Carter’s 1976 presidential race. The president appointed her in 1977 to coordinate what was then a small State Department bureau that had been created by Congress the year before.

With the support of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, and to signal how seriously the administration would treat human rights, the job was elevated to the level of Assistant Secretary of State. Ms. Derian, who had trained as a registered nurse, earned a reputation for angering despots as well as career State Department diplomats, many of whom viewed her as well-meaning but unsophisticated.

Nevertheless, by most accounts, thousands of lives may been spared because of her work. One big success came during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” when labor leaders and other dissidents were being seized by the country’s ruling junta, held without charges, and in up to 30,000 cases executed as part of a so-called antiterrorism campaign.

Ms. Derian outraged Argentina’s military leaders when she brushed aside their denials of involvement in the abductions and murders of civilians. In one meeting with the head of the Argentine Navy, Admiral Emilio Massera, in 1977, she whipped out a floor plan of the notorious ESMA Navy Schol (the largest of over 300 detention camps used during the dictatorship at the time). “You and I both know that as we speak, people are being tortured in the next floors,” she told Massera.

In the Philippines, under the authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos, the condemned dissident Benigno Aquino was allowed to leave the country in 1980 in no small measure because of the publicity Ms. Derian had generated on his behalf. Two years earlier, she pointedly left a dinner being held in her honor by President Marcos to visit Mr. Aquino in his death-row prison cell. She wore her evening gown.

Jacobo Timerman, an Argentine journalist who was tortured by the junta, said in 1977 that Ms. Derian had saved him from certain execution. Kim Dae-jung, the South Korean dissident whom Ms. Derian attempted to free in 1980, who was elected president in 1997 and invited her to his inauguration as a special guest.

Ms. Derian was supported by Secretary of State Vance and President Carter; but often clashed with National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and others in thadministration. “You got the argument that ‘these were cultural standards’  - that you can’t expect other countries to accept our values. All those mindless arguments,” she said.

Charlie Clements, who worked with Ms. Derian in Central America and today lectures at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, said in an interview in 2012 that President Carter had undoubtedly known that his appointing Ms. Derian, who was known as Patt, would cause tension in the State Department. But President Carter, he said, “wasn’t looking so much for diplomacy as moral fiber.”

“Patt,” he said, “had moral fiber in excess.”

At: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/21/us/patricia-derian-diplomat-who-made-human-rights-a-priority-dies-at-86.html?_r=0


Here's to you, Patt Derian.[/center]

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