All articles from: March, 2009

UN- Donor Mission to Sahrawi Refugee Camps – Photo Album

Women Organize Food Distribution in the Camp

New Story on the U.S. Mission Facebook Page: State Department Refugee Officer Melissa Pitotti participated in the March 2009 United Nations donor mission to the Sahrawi refugee camps in western Algeria. The visit highlighted the severe living conditions facing a population that has lived in exile for the last 33 years.

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Human Rights Council, Item 10, General Debate

The Human Rights Council in Session in Geneva (U.S. Mission Archive Photo)

The United Nations’ mission to promote full respect for all human rights is not solely one of advocacy and reporting – though these are critical. To truly achieve our shared goal, the United Nations must also work to assist governments to identify areas of concern and assist in the design and implementation of human rights protections. The High Commissioner’s technical assistance and capacity-building programs are crucial to this effort.

The Office of the High Commissioner has assisted governments with legislative and judicial reforms, training for military and security sectors, and provides key technical support to justice and other ministries in governments around the world. The High Commissioner’s reports presented this session – including on activities in Colombia and Nepal, among others – show the importance of this work.

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Statement by Secretary Clinton on World Tuberculosis Day 2009

Today marks World Tuberculosis Day, and I join others around the world in saying “I am stopping TB.”

Tuberculosis (TB) kills almost 5,000 people each day, and is the leading cause of death for people living with HIV/AIDS. According to the World Health Organization, almost 40% of TB cases are not properly detected and treated. While treatment for TB exists, more and more individuals are being diagnosed with multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB or extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB, which are difficult and expensive to treat.

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Item 7: General Debate – Human Rights Council

The United States shares the international community’s concern about the humanitarian and human rights situation in Gaza and in Israel. It is important to keep both the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people and the security of Israeli citizens in mind when considering this complex situation. Both sides bear a responsibility to, at a minimum, ensure against the targeting of civilians as such and to comply with international law.

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Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories

The United States has, on many occasions, urged this Council to maintain a balanced, objective, and constructive focus on the situation in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories. While we fully understand the mandate that Special Rapporteur Falk inherited, we remain concerned about the one-sided focus of the report and caution against premature legal conclusions.

The report draws attention to alleged violations of international law committed by Israeli forces, yet largely fails to acknowledge Israel’s right to self-defense and to protecting its citizenry and territory. No government can be expected to tolerate violence against its citizens and territory, and the United States again condemns the use of Gaza as a base from which to attack Israeli civilians. We encourage the Special Rapporteur to take note in future reports of the salient need to recognize Israel’s right to self-defense and the security situation it confronts.

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Item 8: Follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action adopted in 1993 is a vision for the implementation of universal human rights that still challenges us in 2009. One of the most striking statements in the VDPA is the recognition and affirmation that “all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person, and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms….”

The United States is concerned by encroachments on the universally agreed principle that it is individual human beings who hold rights and freedoms and who deserve protection. The concept of “defamation of religion” seeks to protect religions rather than individuals and some are now trying to expand references to “incitement to religious hatred” to include protection of religion.

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Interactive Dialogue on the Special Sessions on Beit Hanoun and Gaza

The United States remains concerned about the use of the Human Rights Council as a platform to single out Israel for criticism; the special sessions devoted solely to the human rights situation in Gaza and the Beit Hanoun incidents are examples of activities that undermine the credibility and balance that the Human Rights Council should enjoy and exercise.

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Item 5: Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

We consider this session a critical opportunity for States to give feedback to the Committee on its early work. Decision 5/1 mandated the Committee to “provide expertise to the Council in the manner and form requested by the Council.” It stipulated that such expertise was to be rendered “only upon the latter’s request, in compliance with its resolutions and under its guidance.” Decision 5/1 says explicitly that the Committee “shall not adopt resolutions or decisions.”

We share the concerns of those who believe that much of the substance of the work of the Committee to date is less research-based and more advocacy-oriented than envisioned in Decision 5/1, and that the form of the work, often styled to resemble resolutions and presented as recommendations, is not fully consistent with the parameters set out by the Council. We are concerned about both the substance and the form of the Committee’s output, and request the Committee to take these concerns into account in its future work.

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U.S. Statement to the DSB

U.S. Statement to the March 20 meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body at WTO Headquarters in Geneva

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Statement by the U.S. on the Israeli UPR Process – Item 6

We consider efforts to treat one country – any country – differently from all the others unacceptable and we appreciate the work of the Secretariat and the Council President to keep the Council on the right path. The founding principles of this Council are clear: universality, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity. These principles are not intended to shield countries from criticism, but rather to create an environment in which all will be treated fairly and, ultimately, the Council itself can be more effective and succeed in its objectives.

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