U.S. Statement on Special Rapporteurs Human Rights Reports

Reports of the Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial, Summary, and Arbitrary Executions and on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance

Statement delivered by Jan Levin

U.S. Mission Political Officer

Geneva, March 28, 2007

Thank you, Mr. President. In his report, Professor Alston discusses the important legal issue of the relationship between human rights law and international humanitarian law. Unfortunately, however, he tends to misrepresent the United States position in a number of respects. For example, we do not believe that human rights law ceases to apply entirely in times of armed conflict or that every counterterrorism action is governed by international humanitarian law.

On the issue of mercy killings, like the Special Rapporteur, the United States strongly condemns the conduct of the soldiers involved. They have all been punished through court-martial proceedings.

Finally, in his discussion of offenses subject to the death penalty, Professor Alston indicated several troubling facts about the situation in Iran, including that members of religious minorities are arbitrarily subjected to the death penalty. Could the Special Rapporteur please provide further information on this subject?

We also have a question for Mr. Diene. The specific examples of “defamatory” and racist rhetoric that he cites were all met in some countries by vigorous and open public debate about racial and religious intolerance. By contrast, in many countries that justify restricting free expression in order to protect against racism or religious defamation, only members of certain religious or ethnic groups enjoy the benefits of such State protection. Others in fact are often prevented from speaking on their own behalf.

Our questions are: how, as a practical matter, would the Special Rapporteur suggest that States maintain the necessary balance between the protection of free expression and respect for the freedom of religion? Can he identify a national system that would represent a good model of such balance?

Thank you, Mr. President.