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Closing Statement by Ambassador Tichenor at the Human Rights Council 7th Session
April 1, 2008

Human Rights Council – Seventh Session, Closing Statement

Statement by Ambassador Warren W. Tichenor
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States recalls that all governments in this Council have a responsibility to uphold their obligations under the UN Charter and to honor the commitments of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. This Council was formed so that those governments could work together, in a non-politicized manner, to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Friday’s proceedings too often mocked that lofty goal. Amendments that seek to degrade the very core of the fundamental right of freedom of expression were forced on the co-sponsors, who were attempting to protect the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.

Sometimes freedom of expression is difficult, a sentiment well expressed by Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. But it is nonetheless essential for a healthy, functioning society. We can condemn that which is deeply offensive while still defending the right of freedom of expression.

The resolution adopted attempts to legitimize the criminalization of expression. In effect, it seeks to delineate restrictions on individuals rather than to emphasize the duty and responsibility of Governments to guarantee, uphold, promote and protect human rights. Make no mistake, these amendments would support the criminalization of free expression, or the possession of opinions contrary to those of a State, plain and simple. It is a sad day when the Human Rights Council turns from protecting rights to eroding them.

The United States is also deeply disappointed that this Council spent a disproportionate amount of time discussing Israel — and at that, in an unbalanced fashion — continuing a pattern that does nothing to advance the goal of a peaceful, negotiated, two-state solution to this conflict. We also are concerned by the selection of some clearly biased individuals as mandate holders, which only further undermines the credibility of the mechanism.

Fortunately, the Council remembered some of its responsibilities. The people of North Korea and Burma will at least know that the international community stands with them in their struggle against oppression. Regrettably, the people of Darfur were offered only a weak resolution that vastly understates the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Sudan. The elimination of the Independent Expert on the DRC was also a step backward.

This forum shortchanges the victims of human rights violations and provides cover for human rights violators. On this, the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, this Council should and must recommit itself to a higher ideal, as called for in the UDHR which this Council is dedicated to upholding and protecting.

Thank you, Sir.