We are deeply saddened by the death of the founder of the Damas de Blanco, Laura Pollan. She was a courageous human rights defender who fought valiantly on behalf of political prisoners in Cuba. Cuba has lost one of its most important voices of conscience. We offer our sincere condolences to her family, which has lost a loyal wife and mother. Mrs. Pollan will be remembered with gratitude by scores of former political prisoners who are now free thanks to her and the Damas. Through them, and all who work for a democratic future in Cuba, her legacy will endure.
Through Mrs. Pollan’s and the Damas’ brave actions, the world bears witness to the plight of those who remain unjustly held in Cuba’s prisons and to Cuba’s dismal human rights record.
Since the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States has engaged the Cuban people in support of their desire to freely determine their future and Cuba’s future.
The United States condemns the continued atrocities and abductions committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) across central Africa. We remain committed to supporting our regional partners’ efforts to mitigate and eliminate the threat to civilians and regional stability posed by the LRA. Since 2008, the United States has provided over $40 million in critical logistical support, equipment and training to enhance counter-LRA operations by regional militaries. We continue to join regional governments in calling on LRA fighters to peacefully disarm and return home.
With the consent of the Government of Uganda, and as notified to Congress, the United States has sent a small number of U.S. military advisors to the region to assist the forces that are pursuing the LRA and seeking to bring top commanders to justice. These advisors will work with our regional partners and the African Union in the field to strengthen information-sharing, enhance coordination and planning, and improve the overall effectiveness of military operations and the protection of civilians. These advisors will not engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.
This is one component of an ongoing, comprehensive U.S. strategy to address the LRA threat, in accordance with the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Act signed into law in 2011. This strategy includes efforts to help increase the protection of civilians, encourage and facilitate defections of lower-level LRA fighters, and provide continued humanitarian relief.
The United States congratulates Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, the former president of Cape Verde, upon being awarded the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. This prize recognizes President Pires’ notable achievements in strengthening democracy, good governance, and economic development, making Cape Verde a model for other West African nations searching for an enduring democratic way forward. Specifically, the award cited Pires’s influence in assuring Cape Verde’s successful transition in the early 1990s from one-party to multi-party governance.
October 7 marks the fifth-year anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Her reporting on the war in the North Caucasus brought to light the violation of human rights and the suffering of the victims in this conflict. We honor Anna’s legacy as a courageous journalist.
While we welcome the recent arrest of suspects in her murder, justice will not be done until all those involved in the crime are identified and prosecuted.
The United States strongly condemns the dangerous and provocative attacks on a mosque in the northern Israeli town of Tuba-Zangariyye, which took place on October 3. Such hateful sectarian actions are never justified. We note that the Israeli Government also strongly condemned the attacks, and we endorse stepped-up efforts by law enforcement authorities to act vigorously to bring to justice those responsible for this heinous act and similar attacks that have taken place in the West Bank.
The United States calls on those who will gather to commemorate the second anniversary of the tragic 2009 pro-democracy demonstration in Conakry Stadium to do so peacefully, as violence undermines rule of law and threatens Guinea’s nascent democracy. During the demonstration in September 2009, 157 people were killed, and more than 1,000 injured when members of Guinea’s Presidential Guard opened fire on unarmed peaceful demonstrators and also brutally raped and sexually assaulted hundreds of women. The Guinean people have worked long and hard to bring about democracy; and with legislative elections set for December 29, 2011, now is not the time to lose democratic progress that took 50 years to achieve.
The United States encourages all political players in Guinea to engage in dialogue and act responsibly in order to reconcile differences. We urge Guinean security forces to refrain from using excessive force to control demonstrations.
The United States takes note of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) September 23 statement and joins it in expressing deep concern about the current situation in Yemen. We again express our sincere condolences to all those who have lost loved ones as a result of recent violence. We urge all parties to cease violence and exercise maximum restraint. We support the GCC’s call for the formation of a committee to investigate events that resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. Too many Yemenis have lost their lives and each day that passes without a peaceful and orderly transition is another day that the Yemeni people are forced to live in an unstable environment that threatens their security and livelihood.
The Yemeni government must immediately address the democratic aspirations of its people. The Yemeni people have made clear their desire for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their calls for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security.
We again urge President Saleh to initiate a full transfer of power without delay and arrange for presidential elections to be held before the end of the year within the framework of the GCC initiative. The Yemeni people have suffered enough and deserve a path toward a unified, stable, secure, and democratic Yemen. We will continue to work with the GCC and others in the international community to support the Yemeni people’s aspirations.
The United States extends our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during recent protests in Sana’a. We have long condemned the use of violence during this period of upheaval and reject any actions that undermine productive efforts underway to achieve a peaceful political resolution to the current crisis in Yemen. We call upon all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from further violence. We urge a prompt, impartial investigation into the events that led to the recent violence.
The United States continues to support the Yemeni people’s aspirations for a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to their aspirations for peace, reconciliation, prosperity, and security. A political solution is the best way to avoid further bloodshed. We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached that leads to the expeditious signing of the GCC political transition initiative.
For decades, countries rich in oil, gas, or minerals have been cursed by conflict surrounding those resources. Companies in the extractive industries are often accused of complicity in violating human rights. For 11 years, the United States government has been part of a collaborative effort that brings governments, companies, and NGOs together to make sure that as companies extract resources in some of the most difficult places on earth, they take tangible steps to minimize the risk of human rights abuses in the surrounding communities.
On September 15-16, 2011 the Government of Canada hosted an extraordinary plenary meeting of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights initiative in Ottawa. The State Department helped negotiate a consensus among 19 oil, gas and mining companies, seven governments, and 10 NGOs on a new core document that outlines the expectations of the initiative’s participants, and lays out a plan to pursue the creation of a legal entity for the initiative. These long overdue moves put the initiative on stable foundations for its second decade. Several participants also announced a pilot project to explore ways of verifying and guiding the ways that companies live up to the commitments they make. This will help companies maintain high standards while they do business in some of the toughest areas in the world.
The developments in the Voluntary Principles initiative are an example of this Administration’s practical approach to working in partnership with corporations, other governments, and civil society groups to start fixing human rights problems that none could solve alone.
The United States has seen encouraging signs in recent days from the government and the opposition in Yemen suggesting a renewed willingness to implement a political transition, to include the Vice President signing the GCC-brokered agreement on behalf of President Saleh. The United States believes that three elements that have been agreed by the parties are critical to the successful implementation of the GCC Initiative: 1) Formation of a Government of National Unity; 2) Agreement to hold early Presidential elections by the end of calendar year 2011; and 3) Creation of a High Committee to oversee the country’s security and military affairs during the period leading to early elections. The United States believes that these remaining tasks can and should be accomplished quickly and it hopes that an agreement is reached and the signing of the GCC Initiative takes place within one week.
The United States continues to support a peaceful and orderly transition that is responsive to the Yemeni people’s aspirations for peace, prosperity, and security. We remain concerned about reports of continued violence. We call on the Yemeni government to protect peaceful protestors, refrain from violence, and bring those responsible for violence to justice.