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U.S. Statement on the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States is profoundly committed to ending racism and racial discrimination. We remain fully and firmly committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and bigotry, including through enhanced implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This commitment is rooted in the saddest chapters of our history and reflected in the most cherished values of our union. We will continue to work in partnership with all nations of goodwill to uphold human rights and combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination in all forms and all places.

Our concerns about the 2001 Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) are well-known, including its unfair and unacceptable singling out of Israel and its endorsement of overbroad restrictions on freedom of expression that run counter to the U.S. commitment to robust free speech. But we will always stand ready to work with others in the effort to combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination.

The United States has just pledged $650,000 in extra-budgetary funds to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to develop and disseminate an anti-racism educational curriculum titled “Teaching Respect for All.” As an outcome of President Obama’s March 2011 visit to Brazil, the Brazilian government is partnering with us on this important initiative. The curriculum will be developed over two years, after which time it will be available for global dissemination by UNESCO through its contacts with education ministries, as well as its extensive network of affiliated schools.

In the Western Hemisphere, the United States is working bilaterally with Brazil and Colombia on Action Plans to Promote Racial and Ethnic Equality, sharing best practices and implementing programs to improve access to the justice system, political institutions, employment, health care, education, and environmental justice for people of African descent and indigenous people in our societies.

We look forward to working with other nations to strengthen efforts to combat racism around the world.

Thank you, Madame President.

 


The Human Rights Situation in Belarus has Deteriorated Sharply Since 2010 Elections

Remarks delivered under Item 4: Interactive Dialogue on the High Commissioner’s Oral Report on Belarus

Thank you, Madame President.

The United States thanks High Commissioner Pillay for her oral report on the grave human rights situation in Belarus. We are deeply disappointed the Government of Belarus has failed to take steps to meet its human rights obligations since the Council’s last session. The government continues to routinely suppress freedoms of expression and of assembly and association. It has ignored the resolution this Council adopted in June, just as it has ignored similar resolutions by other international bodies including the Council of Europe.

The human rights situation in Belarus has deteriorated sharply since the December 2010 elections, which failed to meet international standards. The government initiated a wide-ranging crackdown against the political opposition, civil society activists, independent unions and media during the post-election period. Security forces detained hundreds of peaceful demonstrators. Authorities harassed and raided the offices of dozens of nongovernmental groups, seizing documents and equipment. Arbitrary arrests, detentions, politically motivated trials, and long prison sentences for many of the country’s most prominent opposition figures and civil society leaders became the norm. These abuses have continued unabated ever since.

To protest this turn of events, some Belarusian citizens decided to stand silently – to say nothing publicly; others decided to stand in parks and clap their hands. These citizens have also been arrested. In Belarus, citizens are arrested and deprived of their liberty for standing silently or clapping their hands.

The United States considers those arrested on politically motivated charges during and after the December 2010 crackdown to be political prisoners; we call for their immediate and unconditional release. We further call upon the Belarusian government to stop harassing civil society, independent media and the political opposition, and to open space for the free expression of political views, the development of a civil society, and greater media freedom.

The United States is firmly committed to supporting the democratic aspirations and universal human rights of the Belarusian people. We urge the Government of Belarus to end its self-imposed isolation and to respect, protect, and uphold the fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak on this important subject, Madame President.

 
 

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