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The Right to Protest Peacefully is an Essential Enabler of Other Rights and Freedoms

Thank you Mr. President.

United States strongly supports this resolution L. 20 on peaceful protests. We will vote yes on the resolution and will vote no on the amendments. We ask others to join us in this vote.

As the lead sponsor of the annual resolution on Freedom of Association and Assembly, which is a consensus resolution, we view the ability to protest peacefully as an essential enabler of other rights and freedoms. Peaceful protests are often an important form of political expression – a form which is also sometimes politically divisive.

The amendments proposed today would restrict the ability to make such political expression and could have serious negative consequences for the enjoyment of these fundamental freedoms.

For example, the most insidious of the proposed amendments is L 50, which would restrict the ability of those to conduct peaceful protests for reasons of National Security.

National security is too often interpreted overly broadly and is used as a pretext to restrict protests which are essentially political in nature. In my own country, the demonstrations for racial equality led by Martin Luther King Jr. were wrongly restricted by security officials using such pretexts.

Other great leaders of protest marches – including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi– faced restriction of their peaceful protests for similar reasons. We find such restrictions incompatible with support for freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and other rights protected by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration.

As a result, the United States will vote against these amendments and in favor of the resolution on peaceful protests. We urge others to join us.

- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva

 


U.S. Statement on Resolution “Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance”

Delivered by David Sullivan

The United States has consistently sought to support practical and concrete efforts to end racism and racial discrimination wherever it occurs. We discussed some of these efforts the United States is pursuing domestically just a few weeks ago here in Geneva with the Human Rights Committee, and we look forward to discussing them in more detail in a few months’ time with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Our priority, as we have made clear for some years, is to help ensure that all states live up to their obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and implement practical measures to fulfill the promise of that Convention and other instruments barring racial discrimination. Unfortunately, we are concerned that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance does little to contribute to forward movement on such practical measures.

Moreover, as in the past, we cannot endorse all of the provisions of the current mandate. The mandate contains elements we believe neither reflect international law nor advance appropriate policies. For instance, we believe it is critically important to balance necessary legal protections for freedom of expression with solutions to the problem of incitement.

It is, therefore, with sincere regret that the United States must again disassociate from consensus on this resolution. We will continue to look for ways to balance our differences with the overriding goal we all share to eliminate racism in all its forms, wherever it occurs. We are proud of the efforts we have made in that regard and will continue to seek consensus on practical ways to make progress to achieve that worthy objective.

- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva

 


EOP on Resolution “Human rights and the environment”

Delivered by David Sullivan

We would like to thank Costa Rica and the other members of the core group for their exemplary, transparent and open handling of the negotiations on this important resolution.

The United States continues to agree with other members of the Council that protection of the environment and its contribution to sustainable development, human well-being, and the enjoyment of human rights are vitally important. In this spirit, we join consensus on this resolution.

At the same time, we remain concerned regarding the general approach of placing environmental concerns in a human rights context and about addressing them in fora that do not have the necessary expertise. For related reasons, while we recognize the efforts of the independent expert and UN bodies in this area, we do not agree with a number of aspects of their work.

We are also concerned about certain elements in the final text. For example, while sustainable development is a goal we all aim to achieve, the concerns of the United States about the existence of a “right to development” are long-standing and well known – the “right to development” does not have an agreed international meaning. Furthermore, work is needed to make it consistent with human rights, which the international community recognizes as universal rights held and enjoyed by individuals and which every individual may demand from his or her own government.

We interpret this resolution’s references to the obligations of States as applicable only to the extent the State has assumed such obligations by becoming party to various human rights instruments. In joining consensus on this resolution the United States does not recognize any change in the current state of conventional or customary international law. Furthermore, we reiterate that States are responsible for implementing their human rights obligations. This is true of all obligations that a State has assumed, regardless of external factors, including the availability of technical and other assistance.

- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva

 


“Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award” Presented to Fana Delija at Embassy Podgorica

On March 28 Ambassador Sue K. Brown presented the Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award to Fana Delija, Coordinator for the Center for Roma Initiatives. The award was given in recognition of Ms. Delija’s exceptional civic activism that has improved the status of Egyptian and Roma women in Montenegro.

At the ceremony at her Residence, which included a luncheon in Ms. Delija’s honor, Ambassador Brown said, “Fana’s message is clear: Culture must not serve as an excuse to violate human rights or to cut off opportunities for women and girls. Because of this brave message, Fana has faced opposition from within her community and even physical attacks. Fortunately for women in Montenegro and everywhere, she refuses to give up the fight.”

The Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award was created to recognize individuals and organizations for their outstanding civic engagement. Through this award, the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica honors those whose dedicated actions, both in their communities and within the broader Montenegrin society, distinguish them as active citizens and leaders. Last year, the first Ambassador’s Active Citizenship Award was awarded to Ms. Marijana Goranovic, a Paralympics athlete and an NGO activist.

Read more about Fana Delija in thisblog post written by Ambassador Sue K. Brown.

- Cross posted from the U.S. Embassy in Podgorica, Montenegro

 


No Changes in U.S. Assistance to Uganda Announced Yet

We have seen several reports alleging that recent decisions by donors have directly affected services in health, agriculture, and election funding. Speaking for the United States, let us be clear; none of the announced changes in U.S. assistance affects essential care and treatment in our health services, our extensive agriculture programming, or our initiatives in democracy and governance. Nor do they hinder any other program central to our shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, and democratic Uganda.

The American people continue to provide over $700 million in assistance to the people of Uganda annually – more than any other donor. Virtually none of this money goes to the government. It goes to our implementing partners who use it to provide direct services to the people most in need. Our commitment to support the needs of the Ugandan people remains strong, just as it has for the last fifty years.

We note the frequent statements from political and other leaders that the U.S. is cutting assistance to Ugandans in urgent need of health services. This is patently false. On behalf of the American people, we provide nearly eighty percent of the national HIV response in Uganda. We support the life-saving, anti-retroviral therapy (ART) of over half-a million Ugandans – over eighty percent of all citizens on ART in Uganda. There has been no other realistic source of funds for this treatment, and without it, people will die.

We believe deeply that Uganda’s economic future must be strongly rooted in its tremendous agricultural potential. That is why President Obama’s Feed the Future program – which remains fully funded – is the single-largest donor-funded agriculture program in Uganda. Over one-quarter of a million members of 5,600 farmer and producer organizations are benefitting right now from the training and improved technology Feed the Future provides.

Our democracy and governance programs are central to our work around the world, and Uganda is no different. As we have for years, we continue to work with actors across the Ugandan political spectrum in non-partisan ways to promote democratic principles and to help ensure free, fair and credible elections and that all Ugandans can enjoy the basic freedoms and universal rights that come with being a member of the international community. And, as long as we have a viable partnership, we intend to provide further assistance to help ensure that future elections are also free, fair, and credible.

– Cross posted from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda

 


Presidential Proclamation – Cesar Chavez Day, 2014

On Cesar Chavez Day, we celebrate one of America’s greatest champions for social justice. Raised into the life of a migrant farm worker, he toiled alongside men, women, and children who performed daily, backbreaking labor for meager pay and in deplorable conditions. They were exposed to dangerous pesticides and denied the most basic protections, including minimum wages, health care, and access to drinking water. Cesar Chavez devoted his life to correcting these injustices, to reminding us that every job has dignity, every life has value, and everyone — no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from — should have the chance to get ahead.

After returning from naval service during World War II, Cesar Chavez fought for freedom in American agricultural fields. Alongside Dolores Huerta, he founded the United Farm Workers, and through decades of tireless organizing, even in the face of intractable opposition, he grew a movement to advance “La Causa” across the country. In 1966, he led a march that began in Delano, California, with a handful of activists and ended in Sacramento with a crowd 10,000 strong. A grape boycott eventually drew 17 million supporters nationwide, forcing growers to accept some of the first farm worker contracts in history. A generation of organizers rose to carry that legacy forward.

The values Cesar Chavez lived by guide us still. As we push to fix a broken immigration system, protect the right to unionize, advance social justice for young men of color, and build ladders of opportunity for every American to climb, we recall his resilience through setbacks, his refusal to scale back his dreams. When we organize against income inequality and fight to raise the minimum wage — because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty — we draw strength from his vision and example.

Throughout his lifelong struggle, Cesar Chavez never forgot who he was fighting for. “What [the growers] don’t know,” he said, “is that it’s not bananas or grapes or lettuce. It’s people.” Today, let us honor Cesar Chavez and those who marched with him by meeting our obligations to one another. I encourage Americans to make this a national day of service and education by speaking out, organizing, and participating in service projects to improve lives in their communities. Let us remember that when we lift each other up, when we speak with one voice, we have the power to build a better world.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 31, 2014, as Cesar Chavez Day. I call upon all Americans to observe this day with appropriate service, community, and education programs to honor Cesar Chavez’s enduring legacy.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand fourteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-eighth.

BARACK OBAMA

 


Remarks at the Launch of Makerere University Ethics and Human Rights Association

Ambassador DeLisi speaking to Makerere University students interested in human rights issues in Uganda.

Ambassador DeLisi speaking to Makerere University students interested in human rights issues in Uganda.

I am delighted to join you at this inaugural Makerere University Human Rights Expo. I want to extend a special ‘thank you’ to Makerere University for hosting this expo and to the organizing committee and the Makerere University Ethics and Human Rights Association for inviting me here today as we launch your Association.

I am impressed and pleased to see so many young people interested in learning more about how they can protect and advance the rights of all Uganda’s citizens to make the nation stronger. Appreciation for the idea that there are indeed universal human rights that protect all citizens in all countries has evolved since discussions on the issue began after World War II. Different countries have adopted its key components at different times, and in different ways. Yet it all started with a single document created by the United Nations.

Back in 1947, delegates from six continents devoted themselves to drafting a declaration that would enshrine the fundamental rights and freedoms of people everywhere. In the aftermath of the horrors of World War II, many nations pressed for a statement that would help to prevent future atrocities and protect the inherent humanity and dignity of all people. And so the delegates went to work. They discussed, they wrote, they revisited, revised, and rewrote for thousands of hours. And they incorporated suggestions and revisions from governments, organizations, and individuals around the world.

At three o’clock in the morning on December 10th, 1948, after nearly two years of drafting and one last long night of debate, the president of the UN General Assembly called for a vote on the final text. Forty-eight nations, including the United States voted in favor; eight (including the Soviet Union and several satellite states) abstained; none dissented. And the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. It proclaims a simple, powerful idea: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. And the declaration made clear that rights are not conferred by governments; they are the birthright of all people. It does not matter what country we live in, who our leaders are, or even who we are. Because we are human, we therefore have rights. And because we have rights, governments are obligated to protect them.

In the nearly 66 years since the declaration was adopted, many nations have made great progress in advancing the cause of human rights. Step by step, barriers that once prevented people from enjoying the full measure of liberty, the full experience of dignity, and the full benefits of humanity have fallen away. In many places, racist laws have been repealed, legal and social practices that relegated women to second-class status have been abolished, the ability of religious minorities to practice their faith freely has been secured.

Of course the individuals that drafted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more than 60 years ago were not thinking then about some of the issues that have come to the fore today. They did not consider how it applied to indigenous people, or to children, or to people with disabilities or to other marginalized groups that can be found in almost any society. However, nations around the world have come to recognize that the Universal Declaration is not frozen in time reflecting the world of 1947. Rather, it is a living document whose emphasis on the universality of human rights applies to today’s world as well. We recognize and believe that all segments of modern society are entitled to the full measure of dignity and rights, because, like all people, they share a common humanity, no matter what they look like, where they come from, or what they believe.

We have learned other lessons over the years as well. We know today that whenever any group is marginalized and given less respect, fewer rights, or less protection than another group, our societies are diminished and all of our rights are at risk. In some countries it is women who are left on the fringes, in other nations it is a racial or religious minority that might face sanctioned discrimination. In still other nations it may be singled out because of their sexual orientation, their communal affiliation, or their tribe. We cannot and must not allow ourselves and our societies to be diminished by those who seek to institutionalize discrimination.

Those who would seek to legitimize discrimination have many arguments. They may cite historical practice, or culture, or long-standing communal problems to justify their actions. Those may have been enough in another age. It is not enough today. No matter the arguments advance, there is no justification for violence against women in the form of honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Violence towards girls and women, including the sexual violence that we see so often in Uganda isn’t cultural; it’s criminal. And it should be. Likewise with slavery. What was once justified as “sanctioned by God” is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. In each of these cases, we came to learn that no practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.

Since 1918, when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson introduced the idea of a collaborative international body known as the League of Nations, our foreign policy has been guided and informed not just by our interests, but by our values. All countries around the world pursue their interests, we do too. But our pursuit of national interests is tempered and balance by being grounded in our core values – something that others often do not understand but it is central to our view of the world and our role in it.

We recognize, of course, that our values are not shared by every nation or society. We know as well that we cannot insist that others accept our values or force our values upon them. But we can, and do, make judgments, shaped by our values, about the nature and extent of our engagement with nations whose values are contrary to our own. When nations move too far apart on their values, partnerships suffer. When values and vision are shared, they prosper.

It is a simple reality: we invest more and focus more on cooperation with those whose values we share and with whom we have common aspirations and a common view of the world. And the values that underscore our closest partnerships are those that reflect respect for human dignity, that allow peoples’ voices to be freely heard, and that permit individuals to participate robustly in their society without fear of discrimination or victimization.

I would love to tell you that our own nation has always been perfect in putting our beliefs and values into practice. We haven’t been. But we try, we care, we believe, and we persevere. We challenge each other in churches, in schools, and in our workplaces. Our media outlets report, investigate and analyze, and spark vibrant debate. Our elected officials respond with policies and vision, our congress legislates to redress wrongs and to establish norms, and our courts adjudicate, define and defend personal freedoms and fundamental rights. But perhaps most importantly, we adapt. We adapt to societal changes, to new understandings, and to new perspectives and we reassess our understanding of human rights and human dignity against the background of a constantly changing world.

As I noted a moment ago, we have made our mistakes but our lack of perfection cannot and should not silence our voice or the voice of any nation that stands for the cause of justice and human rights. If an imperfect nation cannot speak out when they see an injustice simply because they are imperfect, then injustice will survive and flourish. No one will ever speak for the voiceless, no one will ever stand for the defenseless, and no one will push back against those who would abuse human dignity for political gain or to satisfy senseless hatred based on race, or faith, or gender.

Ours of course, is a society that emphasizes the rule of law and when human rights are undercut due to societal, religious, or cultural biases, good laws can make a huge difference. In America, and elsewhere, legal protections have often preceded, not followed, broader recognition of rights. In essence, laws have a teaching effect, for better or for worse. Laws that are discriminatory validate discrimination. Laws that validate equal protection reinforce the moral imperative of equality and non-discrimination.

While good laws can help to define new norms that strengthen respect for human rights, they are not the only driver of change. When a significant barrier to human rights progress falls, it generally reflects a cooperative effort from those on both sides of the barrier. In the fight for women’s rights, the support of men has been crucial. The fight for racial equality has relied on contributions from people of all races. Combating religious intolerance is a task for people of a broad community of faiths, and, in many countries, it has taken a heterosexual majority to ensure that the rights of individuals of different sexual orientation are also respected.

I urge all of you who have chosen to attend this Human Rights Fair today to take a moment to ask yourself what issues concern you most in terms of human rights. And to the members of the Ethics and Human Rights Association, I ask what future will you build for your nation and the generations to follow?

In Uganda, the building blocks to protect human rights are already in place. Your nation is a signatory to a number of international treaties protecting human rights, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Domestically, the Ugandan constitution supports freedoms of assembly, association, speech, press and many others. It offers a strong delineation of the rights the people of this nation care about. The challenge that every nation faces, however, is to respect and protect the freedoms enshrined in our constitutions and our societies.

Like America, and like all countries, Uganda struggles to meet this challenge at times. When it faces such challenges, we believe our partnership is strong enough and open enough that we can speak about the issues on which we disagree and where our values may diverge. And sometimes together we can make a difference.

For example, when the Public Order Management Act was first proposed, civil society groups in Uganda and many of Uganda’s international partners — including the United States — were concerned that it would empower the government to restrict freedoms of speech and assembly. The final legislation was greatly amended and many would argue greatly improved. The test now, however, will be in the government’s application of the law, and it is “on that ground” that citizens will likely form their views of it.

Since the law’s enactment, the government has allowed a number of meetings and demonstrations to take place throughout the country, including meetings and protests organized by the opposition parties and figures. However, there are concerns more recently that the law is being misused to prevent opposition political leaders from being heard.

We recognize this as a serious concern and, like the Ugandans who have voiced their worry about the arbitrary denial of permits and the use of teargas and force against citizens gathering peacefully, we worry that selective application of this law can not only stifle political activity and discussion but also undermine people’s faith in the democratic process.

There are also other bills and directives that young women and men like you in the Ethics and Human Rights Association might think about as reflecting the challenge of balancing rights and responsibilities. Ultimately only Ugandans can determine whether these bills reflect your own values and belief — and perhaps yours will be the voices the address that question — but I hope that Ugandans will at least have a robust discussion of the issues. Among the bills are the Anti-Pornography Act, the Anti-Homosexuality Act, the NGO Bill, the proposed Patriotism Bill, the pending HIV/AIDS Control Bill and new media regulations. All of them raise legitimate questions about freedom of speech and assembly, about the right of privacy, and about non-discrimination and equal protection under the law.

Does legislating patriotism actually diminish dissent and stifle opposition? Does legislating morality lead to discrimination or harassment against those with different values or lifestyles? As elections draw nearer it is even more important that freedom of political assembly and speech are respected and that existing laws are applied in an even-handed manner to all citizens. Actions that reduce the political space and prevent fair democratic competition puts at risk the significant progress Uganda has made in democratic governance over the past 30 years.

Although the United States routinely speaks out on issues of human rights concern, we know that highlighting abuses is not enough. We must also seek to engage constructively with governments, parliaments, civil society, activists, and ordinary citizens, to educate, foster constructive dialogue, find creative solutions and compromises, and make pursuit of a society free of human rights abuses as much a priority as a society free of the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

There is a phrase that people in the United States often invoke when urging others to support human rights: “Be on the right side of history.” The story of the United States is the story of a nation that has repeatedly grappled with intolerance and inequality. We fought a brutal civil war over slavery and then took decades more to fight for full racial equality. Over the years Americans from coast to coast have joined campaigns to fight for the rights of women. In the last century that included the right to vote. In this century it includes the struggle over reproductive rights. We have raised our voices when no one else has to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, of children, of people with disabilities, of immigrants, of workers, and on and on.

The march toward equality and justice continues today despite opposition that has at times been bitter and violent. We believe that all those who fought, and those who continue to struggle to expand the circle of human rights, are on the right side of history, and history honors them. Those who tried to constrict human rights were wrong, and history reflects that as well.

I know that today I have touched upon issues on which there will not be unanimity of views, but I have seen even in my own lifetime how an issue that can be bitterly disputed one day, becomes a universally accepted truth a few years later. And I believe that time will once again bear out the truth of the basic premise on which my nation is founded and from which our commitment to values grows: We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal. And they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As Americans, we believe in the dignity of the individual. We believe in their right to live lives free of discrimination and persecution. We believe that all citizens’ voices deserve to be heard and that governments exist to meet the needs and to protect the rights of the citizens who have entrusted them with the responsibility for governance.

We worry that despite considerable progress, the vision of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is still not fully realized in today’s world. Even as we speak, fundamental rights remain under challenge in countries around the globe. Calls for change in governance are too often treated as threats meriting repression, rather than as legitimate political speech deserving debate. Women still face discrimination, abuse and violence that denies them the right to be equal partners in their own nations’ lives. The youth who make up much of our global population today are too often constrained and controlled as a potential problem rather than nurtured as future leaders. And minorities of all sorts continue to struggle to have their voices heard and to enjoy equal protection under law.

So, today at this Human Rights Fair we are called once more to make real the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Let us answer that call. Let us be on the right side of history. I am hopeful and confident that no matter how long the road ahead, you and others of your generation will travel it successfully and make a difference for Uganda and for the world.

Reaching an understanding of these issues takes more than a single speech of course. It takes a conversation. In fact, it takes a constellation of conversations in places big and small. And it takes a willingness to recognize that our sometimes stark differences in values and beliefs are a reason to begin the conversation, not to avoid it.

Leadership, by definition, means being out in front when it is called for whether it is popular or not. It means standing up for the dignity of all your citizens and persuading others to do the same. It also means ensuring that all citizens are treated as equals under the law. To everyone here today, I say supporting human rights is my responsibility, it is your responsibility, it is all our responsibility. To the Ethics and Human Rights Association members I say stand up to this challenge. Make a difference.

Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to advance human rights worldwide, said that these rights begin in the small places close to home – the streets where people live, the schools they attend, the factories, farms, and offices where they work. These places are your domain. The actions you take, the ideals that you advocate, can determine whether human rights flourish where you are.

With over 80 percent of Ugandans under the age of 30, the future is in the hands of this younger generation. So I ask you — will this be a country of exclusion and discrimination? Or will this be a country of inclusion, tolerance, and understanding? How will the nation you will build be judged by your children and your grandchildren? This, ladies and gentlemen is for you to decide. I wish you wisdom, compassion, and vision as you make your choices.

It is now my great pleasure to officially launch Makerere University Ethics and Human Rights Association and to declare the first annual Human Rights Expo officially open!

Thank you very much.

- Cross posted from the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda


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Readout of the President’s Call with President Putin

President Putin called President Obama today to discuss the U.S. proposal for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine, which Secretary Kerry had again presented to Foreign Minister Lavrov at the meeting at the Hague earlier this week, and which we developed following U.S. consultations with our Ukrainian and European partners. President Obama suggested that Russia put a concrete response in writing and the presidents agreed that Kerry and Lavrov would meet to discuss next steps.

President Obama noted that the Ukrainian government continues to take a restrained and de-escalatory approach to the crisis and is moving ahead with constitutional reform and democratic elections, and urged Russia to support this process and avoid further provocations, including the buildup of forces on its border with Ukraine.

President Obama underscored to President Putin that the United States continues to support a diplomatic path in close consultation with the Government of Ukraine and in support of the Ukrainian people with the aim of de-escalation of the crisis. President Obama made clear that this remains possible only if Russia pulls back its troops and does not take any steps to further violate Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. President Obama reiterated that the United States has strongly opposed the actions that Russia has already taken to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

- Cross posted from WhiteHouse.gov

 


UN Human Rights Council Vote on North Korea

The UN Human Rights Council’s overwhelming vote today underscores the international community’s consensus that North Korea’s leadership must be held accountable for its systematic and widespread violations of human rights. The U.S. and the international community stand with the North Korean people.

The resolution adopted today was built upon the findings and recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry, whose work was strongly supported by the United States and our partners around the world. The resolution echoed the Commission of Inquiry in citing North Korea’s “gross human rights violations” that “in many instances constitute crimes against humanity,” and detailed six key areas where the government of the DPRK has consistently violated the human rights of the citizens of North Korea. The resolution also noted the failure of countries in the region to protect North Koreans who have left the DPRK.

We will work closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue our support for the Special Rapporteur and to establish a field office in Asia to monitor and document human rights violations and abuses in North Korea. We support the resolution’s recommendation that the UN General Assembly forward the Commission of Inquiry’s final report to the UN Security Council for its consideration.

- Cross posted from State.gov

 


Key U.S. Outcomes at the UN Human Rights Council 25th Session

The outcomes of the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) underscored the importance of robust U.S. engagement at the Council, where the United States continues to work with a diverse range of countries from all regions to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership helped to keep the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights. The United States successfully led two resolutions at this session: one that renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and another focusing on accountability for human rights abuses and violations in Sri Lanka.

MULTILATERAL RESPONSES TO COUNTRY SITUATIONS

Sri Lanka: The resolution on Sri Lanka, led by the United States along with core sponsors Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, and the United Kingdom, passed by a vote of 23 yes, 12 no, and 12 abstentions, with 41 total co-sponsors. For the first time, the resolution requests a comprehensive investigation, to be led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), into alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes committed in Sri Lanka by both sides during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report (2002-2009). In addition, it requests that OHCHR monitor, assess, and report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including any relevant domestic processes dealing with reconciliation and accountability. This is the third resolution that the United States has led on Sri Lanka.

Iran: For the fourth year in a row, the HRC passed a resolution highlighting the human rights situation in Iran. The United States joined Macedonia, Moldova, Panama, and Sweden in leading the resolution, which renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Twenty-one countries voted in favor, with 9 against, and 16 abstaining. One country was not present for voting.

Syria: The HRC passed a resolution on Syria, which extends the mandate of the Syria Commission of Inquiry (COI) for another year. Sixty-one countries, including the United States, co-sponsored the resolution, which passed by a vote of 32 yes, 4 no, and 11 abstentions. In addition to extending the COI’s mandate, the resolution condemns in the strongest terms the widespread and systematic violence by Syrian authorities and government-affiliated militias, as well as human rights abuses and violations of international law by all parties including anti-government armed groups. It also highlights the regime’s detention of tens of thousands of Syrians, many of whom have been subjected to torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and extrajudicial killings, and calls for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons, improvement in prison conditions, and access for independent monitors.

D.P.R.K.: The United States co-sponsored the resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) which passed by a vote of 30 yes, 6 no, and 11 abstentions. The European Union (EU) and Japan were the lead sponsors of the resolution, which focuses on the contents of the recent report by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry (COI), and condemns the D.P.R.K. for its ongoing human rights violations. It also seeks to promote implementation of several of the COI’s recommendations, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. Finally, the resolution calls for the establishment of a field-based mechanism to continue the investigation and collection of testimony the COI initiated which would lay the groundwork for a possible accountability framework in the future.

Burma: The United States co-sponsored this EU-led resolution, which was adopted without a vote. The resolution calls for the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in order to maintain an institutional mechanism for international human rights monitoring in Burma. While the resolution gives Burma credit for recent improvements in many aspects of its human rights policy and protection, it also cites serious concerns about the treatment of minorities, especially Muslim minorities.

Ukraine: The United States and 41 other countries joined together in support of the Ukrainian government, condemning the use or threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. The statement called on Russia to ensure full and unimpeded access and protection for UN and OSCE monitors in order to provide a transparent and unbiased report on the human rights, economic, and security situation.

Venezuela: In a series of national statements, the United States called on Venezuela to end violence against protestors and release those detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest and free expression. We stressed the need for an authentically inclusive dialogue with third party mediation that could begin to address the Venezuelan people’s legitimate grievances and guarantee respect for democratic principles and human rights.

CROSS-CUTTING HUMAN RIGHTS PRIORITIES

Freedom of Expression: The U.S.-led resolution to renew the three-year mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression was adopted without a vote. Seventy-two countries joined the United States as co-sponsors.

Civil Society: The U.S. co-sponsored a resolution extending the three-year mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and another resolution stressing the importance of promoting and protecting human rights in the context of peaceful protests. Both resolutions underscore the United States’ and the Council’s commitment to civil society at a time of increasing crackdowns on their independence.

Item 7: This Council session was once again tainted by five separate resolutions targeting Israel under the Council’s biased Agenda Item 7. The United States strongly opposed all five resolutions, though all five passed on votes.

- Cross posted from State.gov

 
 

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