Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States is deeply concerned about violent repression of peaceful protests in some countries around the world. Governments must be held accountable for violation of the fundamental freedoms of association, expression, religion, and speech of their citizens. Too many governments repress dissent with impunity. For example:
• In Iran, we condemn in the strongest possible terms the killing of Iranian activist Haleh Sahabi at her father’s funeral. Eyewitness accounts make it clear that she died as a result of reprehensible actions by Iranian security forces.
• Burma holds over 2,000 political prisoners and routinely violates the rights of its citizens including ethnic minority populations. The United States remains committed to seeking accountability for human rights violations that have occurred in Burma by working to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultations with our friends, allies, and other partners at the United Nations.
• China’s growing number of arrests and detentions of lawyers, activists, bloggers, artists, religious believers, and their families, and its use of extralegal measures undermine the rule of law. The government restricts freedom of religion and expression, including criminalizing dissent on the Internet. The Government has reportedly removed over 300 Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Kirti Monastery. China has still not accounted for 20 Uighur Muslims who were forcibly returned from Cambodia in 2009.
• Belarus has sentenced three opposition presidential candidates to prison, and given two more suspended sentences. At least 38 other opposition activists were tried and convicted in trials that failed to meet even the most minimal standards required of a fair and independent judiciary.
• In Zimbabwe, abuses in the Marange diamond fields continue, along with arrests of political party and civil society members. Politically motivated violence continues to increase.
• Cuba continues to restrict fundamental freedoms and human rights, using short-term detention and government-orchestrated mob violence to suppress dissent.
• In Venezuela, restrictions on civil society are severe and the erosion of democratic institutions continues, with new decree powers given to the executive.
• The DPRK government continues to violate the human rights of its citizens and that regime’s treatment of its own people is deplorable.
• And in Sudan, violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses continue. Actions by the Sudanese government, in Darfur, Abyei, and Southern Kordofan have resulted in civilian displacement and casualties.
Mr. President, the Arab Spring has given hope to millions of people. For many, their dreams of freedom are being met with brutality and suppression.
• The Syrian government continues to repress the legitimate demands of their people through killings, torture, and arbitrary arrests. We strongly condemn its use of force against demonstrators, and we support Canada’s joint statement.
• In Yemen, hundreds of people have died and over 8,000 wounded in clashes with security forces and opposing factions in the past three months. There are credible allegations that the government funded supporters who harassed and beat anti-government protestors. We support the Netherland’s joint statement.
• In Libya, Qadhafi has launched airstrikes on civilians, violently repressed demonstrations, tortured prisoners, and targeted perceived opponents and journalists, resulting in hundreds of deaths and disappearances.
• The Bahraini government has arbitrarily detained medical workers and others perceived as opponents. However, the government’s agreement to welcome a visit by the OHCHR, to end the State of National Safety, and to launch the National Dialogue on reform are signs of hope. We urge the government to follow through on its commitment to ensuring that those responsible for human rights abuses are held accountable.
Lastly, Mr. President, in Sri Lanka, we are deeply concerned by the allegations in the Panel of Experts’ report and are considering its recommendations. We urge the government of Sri Lanka to work with the Tamil National Alliance to achieve national reconciliation. We encourage the government of Sri Lanka to immediately adopt credible mechanisms to ensure accountability for violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law.
Mr. President, the United States calls on all countries to respect the human rights of their citizens.
The United States was deeply concerned by the formal indictment on charges of “inciting subversion” of the well-known Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo on December 10, International Human Rights Day. According to all publicly available evidence, the basis for his prosecution is that he has signed and supported Charter ’08, which calls for respect for universal human rights and democratic reform.
Mr. Liu has already spent a year in detention while authorities carried out the investigation of his case. We call on the Government of China to release him immediately and to respect the rights of all Chinese citizens to peacefully express their political views and desires for universally recognized fundamental freedoms.
The deep commitment of the United States to championing the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is driven by the founding values of our nation and the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected. As the United States seeks to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world, we do so cognizant of our own commitment to live up to our ideals at home and to meet our international human rights obligations. We therefore make the following pledges:
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE UN SYSTEM
- The United States commits to continuing its efforts in the UN system to be a strong advocate for all peo-ple around the world who suffer from abuse and op-pression, and to be a stalwart defender of courageous individuals across the globe who work, often at great personal risk, on behalf of the rights of others.
- The United States commits to working with princi-pled determination for a balanced, credible, and effec-tive UN Human Rights Council to advance the purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To that same end, in partnership with the international commu-nity, we fully intend to promote universality, transpar-ency, and objectivity in all of the Council’s endeavors. The United States commits to participating fully in the Universal Periodic Review process and looks forward to the review in 2010 of its own record in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental free-doms in the United States.
- The United States is committed to advancing the promotion and protection of human rights and funda-mental freedoms in the UN General Assembly and Third Committee, and in this vein intends to actively participate in the UN General Assembly 2010 review of the Human Rights Council.
- The United States is also committed to the promo-tion and protection of human rights through regional organizations. Through our membership in the Organi-zation of Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Organization of American States, the United States commits to continuing efforts to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to strengthening and developing institutions and mechanisms for their pro-tection. In particular recognition of its human rights commitments within the Inter-American system, the United States strongly supports the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
- The United States recognizes and upholds the vital role of civil society and human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights and commits to promoting the effective involvement of non-governmental organizations in the work of the United Nations, including the Council, and other international organizations.
- As part of our commitment to the principle of univer-sality of human rights, the United States commits to working with our international partners in the spirit of openness, consultation, and respect and reaffirms that expressions of concern about the human rights situa-tion in any country, our own included, are appropriate matters for international discussion.
COMMITMENT TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT TO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVITIES IN THE UN SYSTEM
- The United States is committed to continuing its support for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. In 2009, the United States intends to pledge $8 million to the OHCHR and its efforts to ad-dress violations of human rights worldwide, as well as an additional $1.4 million to the UN Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, and more than $7 million to other funds.
- The United States is also committed to continuing its support of other UN bodies whose work contributes to the promotion of human rights. In 2008-2009, the United States has contributed funding to support hu-man rights efforts such as through UNICEF ($130 mil-lion), UNDEF ($7.9 million), and UNIFEM ($4.5 million). The United States also supports the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and is providing $50 million for the 2009 fiscal year as provided in the 2009 Omnibus Ap-propriations Act.
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS, FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS AND HUMAN DIG-NITY AND PROSPERITY INTERNATIONALLY
- The United States commits to continue supporting states in their implementation of human rights obliga-tions, as appropriate, through human rights dialogue, exchange of experts, technical and inter-regional coop-eration, and programmatic support of the work of non-governmental organization.
- The United States commits to continue its efforts to strengthen mechanisms in the international system to advance the rights, protection, and empowerment of women through, for example, supporting the full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 on Women, Peace and Security, and all rele-vant General Assembly Resolutions, particularly 61/143 and 63/155, on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women; sup-porting the work of the UN Commission on the Status of Women; and supporting the work of the Inter-American Commission on Women.
- The United States commits to continuing to promote respect for workers rights worldwide, including by working with other governments and the Interna-tional Labor Organization to adopt and enforce regulations and laws to promote respect for internationally recog-nized worker rights and by providing funding for tech-nical assistance projects to build the capacity of worker organizations, employers, and governments to address labor issues including forced labor and the worst forms of child labor, such as child soldiering, workplace discrimination, and sweatshop and exploitative working conditions.
- The United States commits to continuing to advo-cate a victim-centered and multi-disciplinary ap-proach to combating all forms of trafficking in per-sons and to restoring the dignity, human rights, and fundamental freedoms of human trafficking victims.
- The United States commits to continuing to pro-mote freedom of religion for individuals of all beliefs, particularly members of minority and vulnerable reli-gious groups, through dedicated outreach, advocacy, training and programmatic efforts.
- The United States is committed to continuing to promote human rights in the fight against HIV/AIDS in a variety of ways, including through promoting the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS, fighting against stigma and discrimination, and supporting women’s rights. The United States is committed to preventing suffering and saving lives by confronting global health challenges through improving the quality, availability, and use of essential health services.
- The United States is committed to continuing its leadership role in promoting voluntary corporate so-cial responsibility and business and human rights initiatives globally. The United States intends to con-vene government, civil society and business stake-holders to seek joint solutions on business and hu-man rights, and to serve as an active participant in key multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Volun-tary Principles on Security and Human Rights.
- Recognizing the essential contributions of inde-pendent media in promoting the fundamental freedom of expression, exposing human rights abuses and promoting accountability and transparency in governance, the United States commits to continuing to champion freedom of expression and to promote media freedom and the protection of journalists worldwide.
- We are dedicated to combating both overt and subtle forms of racism and discrimination internation-ally. The United States is party to the International Covenant on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and is committed to seeing the goals of this covenant fully realized. Particular emphasis should be placed not only on eliminating any remain-ing legal barriers to equality, but also on confronting the reality of continuing discrimination and inequality within institutions and societies.
COMMITMENT TO ADVANCING HUMAN RIGHTS AND FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS IN THE UNITED STATES
- The United States executive branch is committed to working with its legislative branch to consider the possible ratification of human rights treaties, includ-ing but not limited to the Convention on the Elimina-tion of Discrimination Against Women and ILO Con-vention 111 Concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation.
- The United States is committed to meeting its UN treaty obligations and participating in a meaningful dialogue with treaty body members.
- The United States is committed to cooperating with the UN’s human rights mechanisms, as well as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other regional human rights bodies, by respond-ing to inquiries, engaging in dialogues, and hosting visits.
- The United States is also strongly committed to fighting racism and discrimination, and acts of vio-lence committed because of racial or ethnic hatred. Despite the achievements of the civil rights move-ment and many years of striving to achieve equal rights for all, racism still exists in our country and we continue to fight it.
- The United States is committed to continuing to promote human prosperity and human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons within the United States, including enforcement of the Ameri-cans with Disabilities Act and its amendments, en-gaging religious and community leaders to uphold religious freedom and pluralism, and encouraging the private sector to serve as good corporate citizens both in the United States and overseas.