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Ambassador Donahoe: Statement on HRC Item 4 – Human Rights Situations Requiring Council Attention
March 15, 2010


Item Four General Debate
Human Rights Situations Requiring Council Attention

Statement by the Delegation of the United States
Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council, Geneva

March 15, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States appreciates the opportunity to take the floor on this agenda item. Regrettably, there are far too many examples in all regions of governments abusing human rights. Governments use arbitrary detention, arrest, and imprisonment to prevent people from exercising their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, including those pertaining to expression, association, peaceful assembly, and religion. We addressed two situations earlier today and ask this Council to stand with the victims of human rights abuses and consider the following situations in its deliberations:

  • Iran continues to use violence to stop its own citizens from exercising their right to peaceful assembly and free expression. Iran’s government arbitrarily detains civil society leaders as well as participants in protests. Those detained face the real threat of torture and disproportionate punishment and do not receive the due process they deserve. Further, the government systematically blocks Internet access and has shut down both conservative and opposition newspapers.
  • China increased cultural and religious repression of ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous region and increased detentions and harassment of human rights activists and public interest lawyers. The government continued its repression in Tibetan areas. It limited freedom of speech and controlled the Internet and Internet access.
  • In Cuba, at least 200 political prisoners remain behind bars, often in squalid conditions without access to medical treatment; in February hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo died while in Cuban government custody.
  • We are concerned by reports from Russia of pressure and violence against journalists as well as harassment, including onerous registration requirements, of NGOs investigating and publicly commenting on human rights problems.
  • Freedom of expression in Sri Lanka is under threat. While the end of armed conflict should have led to more freedoms, recent presidential and parliamentary campaigns have lead to renewed pressures on journalists and civil society not to criticize or disagree with those in power.
  • The human rights situation in Syria has deteriorated since 2008. Torture and the unlawful deprivation of life remain serious concerns. The government continues to strictly control the dissemination of information and to prohibit criticism of the government and discussion of sectarian issues.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons in Uganda face arbitrary legal restrictions.
  • In Venezuela, official harassment and intimidation of the media intensified during the year. Officials, including the president, used government-controlled media outlets to accuse private media owners and reporters of fomenting antigovernment destabilization campaigns and coup attempts. They harassed privately owned and opposition-oriented television stations, media outlets, and journalists.

As we consider how to improve the Council’s work through the 2011 review, we want to ensure that the Council addresses all serious human rights situations, and that it works hand-in-hand with countries that are genuinely willing to improve their human rights performance. We hope we can work together to identify a broad range of tools to address human rights issues specific to countries, from the discussion and provision of technical assistance, to exploration of thematic issues in a country by country context, to resolutions calling governments to account for specific abuses. I personally look forward to joining you all in these efforts.

Thank you, Mr. President.