At the 16th Session of the Human Rights Council on Follow-up to the Human Rights Council 14th Special Session –Côte d’Ivoire
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States thanks the High Commissioner for her report, which can leave no doubt that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire is grave and deteriorating. We deplore the gross abuses of human rights and trampling of fundamental freedoms in Côte d’Ivoire. The recent killing of at least seven women in Abobo who were peacefully protesting in support of President Alassane Ouattara, is but one instance of unconscionable violence we have seen from Ivorian security forces. Furthermore, despite months of comprehensive efforts by the international community, Mr. Gbagbo’s intransigence has pushed Côte D’Ivoire to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
By convening the special session in December, the international community sent a strong, unified message expressing profound concern regarding human rights abuses and violations, and insistence upon respect for the democratic processes. Mr. Gbagbo has not heard this message and continues to defy the will of the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire, who have elected Mr. Ouattara as their President. It is vital that the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner remain vigilant in responding to these horrific abuses, and that we do not let up pressure in response to a situation that is clearly deteriorating.
Continued reports of mass human rights abuses and violations of international law must be investigated, including: enforced disappearances, targeted killings, arbitrary detentions, and intimidation of those that oppose former President Gbagbo, as well as the discovery of possible mass graves. The United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) must be granted access to investigate human rights abuses, especially the reported mass graves, and to carry out patrols throughout the country to bolster confidence and deter further abuse. Threats against UNOCI and restrictions on the movement of UNOCI staff are an affront to the international community.
We are disturbed by the High Commissioner’s account of attacks on religious buildings and worshippers. We strongly urge all parties to respect the freedom of religion. The United States is also alarmed by reports of sexual violence. Providing better protection to civilians from violence, including sexual violence, is of utmost importance to the United States. We call on all parties to investigate and hold accountable the perpetrators of these crimes. The singling out of individuals of specific nationalities for violence and abuse must also be stopped. Innocent Ivoirians suffering the effects of the political stalemate should not have to live in fear of violent and brutal attacks.
We are pleased that the Ivoirians are introducing a resolution on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire at this session. This initiative deserves our strong support. It is important that Members of the Council strongly support this effort to send an unequivocal message to former President Gbagbo that he must respect the will of the Ivorian people, step down immediately, and acknowledge that President Ouatarra is Côte d’Ivoire’s legitimate head of state. We also believe it critical that the Council heed the proposal of the Ivoirians to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate these events with a view towards ensuring that those responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses are held accountable.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations
Requiring Council Attention
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council 16th Session
Thank you, Mr. President. This session of the Human Rights Council comes as citizens across the Middle East have taken to the streets to demand change. We urge all governments to respect the rights of individuals to peacefully assemble and express their views.
The United States calls attention to the following country situations:
In Libya, the government launched airstrikes on civilians, fired indiscriminately, violently repressed demonstrations, and targeted perceived opponents, resulting in hundreds of deaths. It has tortured prisoners and restricted freedoms of speech, assembly, and association.
Iran uses arbitrary detention, torture, intimidation, and violence to restrict the universal rights of its citizens at home while hypocritically applauding the exercise of those same rights abroad. We call on the Council to create a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran this session.
The DPRK controls almost all aspects of citizens’ lives, denying freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion, movement, and worker rights. We call on the Council to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the DPRK.
Syria tortures, arbitrarily detains, and unlawfully kills its citizens, represses political opposition, and severely limits freedoms of association and expression.
In Cote d’Ivoire, we deplore the forced disappearances, targeted killings, arbitrary detentions, intimidation of peaceful protesters who support President Ouattara, including the recent killing of at least seven women in Abobo, and restrictions on the movement of UNOCI. Former President Gbagbo’s actions have pushed Côte D’Ivoire to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe.
Eritrea severely restricts freedoms of expression, association, and religion. Authorities summarily execute individuals attempting to flee military service or leave the country without an exit visa.
Burma holds more than 2,100 political prisoners, strictly controls media and civil society, and discriminates against members of minority groups. We call for renewal of the Special Rapporteur on Burma.
Cuba restricts freedom of expression and association, and uses detention and government-orchestrated mob violence to suppress dissent. Cuba should immediately release all political prisoners and allow peaceful dissent.
In Venezuela, restrictions on civil society are severe and the erosion of democratic institutions continues, with new decree powers given to the executive.
Zimbabwe uses arbitrary arrest, detention, and torture to target political and civil society activists. We urge security forces and political elements to heed recent calls to renounce violence.
China restricts religious freedom, and freedom of expression, including on the Internet. Human rights defenders, including lawyers, face imprisonment. Tight controls on Uyghur and Tibetan language, religion, and culture continue.
Belarus should immediately drop charges and release all persons jailed for efforts to promote human rights and democratic governance. We call on this Council to continue monitoring the situation in Belarus and take appropriate action.
In Sudan, Southerners overwhelmingly voted for independence. The parties must now reach agreement on critical issues including Abyei and citizenship. In Darfur, attacks on civilians, including aerial bombardments, must cease immediately. Violations of civil liberties throughout the North, such as the arrest of peaceful demonstrators on International Women’s Day, must end.
Thank you for coming this evening to recognize the important work of the Committee to Protect Journalists. It is an honor for me to welcome Paul Steiger, the Chairman of the Board of the CPJ; Joel Simon, the Executive Director; and of course Kati Marton, a member of the board and leader of the delegation.
The Committee’s independence and impartiality is the source of its authority in the United States, in Russia, and around the world. It holds all to the same standards of accountability: the CPJ recently called on the American Secretary of Defense to conduct an independent investigation of the 19 American media workers who lost their lives during the fighting in Iraq.
In supporting the work of the Committee, the United States government makes a clear statement of its commitment to the safety of journalists around the world. As Americans, we deeply believe that a free society depends upon a free press; and a free press cannot exist unless journalists feel safe. If journalists are afraid to report the truth, the press is not free. If those who threaten to kill journalists are not identified and brought to justice, society as a whole is weakened.
Being a jouralist has been a dangerous profession in many countries including my own. The murder of Don Bolles, an investigative reporter killed by the mafia in Arizona, is a well-known but not unique example. Russian history also has known many journalists and writers who were exiled, imprisoned or killed for criticizing injustice, for exposing corruption, or for simply telling the truth. Many of you here tonight knew Natalia Estemirova. She was one of several journalists who spoke about the murder of innocent people, and other violations of human rights in Chechnya. She was killed in July 2009, and her murder has never been solved.
American journalist Paul Khlebnikov was murdered in Moscow in July 2004. He was the author of several books and many articles about the connections between business and organized crime.His killers, and those who ordered this killing, have never been brought to justice.
In October 2006 an unknown assassin killed Anna Politkovskaya, who was widely known for her reporting about the conflict in Chechnya, and her reporting about violations of human rights. Anna was a true voice of freedom. Her children, Vera and Ilya, are here with us tonight.
Tonight we recognize the courage and determination of journalists in all countries who seek to report the truth; and we remember those who have lost their lives because they were not willing to be silent. And we recommit ourselves to work for the day when all journalists around the world can work without fear.
And now it’s my great honor to ask Kati Marton to say a few words.
We are very saddened and outraged by news of the murders of Stanislav Markelov, the director of the Rule of Law Institute, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova. Mr. Markelov was a respected human rights advocate, working to expose corruption and violations of basic freedoms and Ms. Baburova was working in the great tradition of independent journalists, seeking the truth and fighting against injustice. We extend our sincere condolences to their respective families and colleagues, and we hope that those responsible will be caught, tried and punished, and that the long series of unsolved murders of journalists will come to an end.