Item 4: General Debate on Human Rights Situations Requiring Council Attention
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 17th Session
Geneva, June 15, 2011
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.