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East Germany defends shooting at escapees

Laws empowering East German border guards to shoot at people trying to flee the country are not a violation of international agreements and are necessary to counteract Western subversion, an East German official has told the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

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The concept of human rights varies in different political systems, and it is a ''realistic view that ... there are no human rights outside the social and political structures of a country,'' East German Justice Ministry official Erich Buchholz told the 18-member committee on Friday.

But Christian Tomuschat of West Germany said it would be ''disastrous'' if each country had a different national human rights concept.

The human rights committee was established in 1977 under the UN Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, which is binding international law. It pledges signatories to ''recognize the right of every human being to life, liberty, security and privacy of the person.'' The United States is not a member.

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