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Interactive Dialogue
March 16, 2010


Human Rights Council (Archive Photo, 2010)

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Representative of the Secretary General for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons,
Walter Kalin (A/HRC/13/21), the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (A/HRC/13/30),
and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/13/31)

Agenda Item 3

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by Craig Kuehl
Advisor, U.S. Delegation

Human Rights Council 13th Session

Geneva, March 9, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States thanks the Representative of the Secretary General for the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, and the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances for your reports.

We would like to reiterate the statements we made yesterday regarding substantive engagement with rapporteurs. We believe in defending the independence of the Special Rapporteurs, and where States have disagreements with mandate holders, and vice versa, we encourage all sides to approach their engagement in a constructive manner.

With respect to IDPs, the United States commends Dr. Kalin for his service and dedication, and the invaluable work he has done to promote the protection of IDPs around the world, and we wish him well as he completes his mandate with two important missions.

The United States agrees that protecting IDPs remains one of the greatest humanitarian challenges facing the international community today. We recognize the importance of the Representative’s visits to more than 20 countries with conflict-induced internal displacement, and we appreciate his work to highlight key concerns with these visits. The United States will continue to advocate for improved humanitarian access where it is unduly restricted by violence against humanitarian workers or bureaucratic red tape.

We affirm that the primary responsibility for protecting internally displaced persons lies with their governments, with international efforts complementing that function. Where a state is unable or unwilling to fulfill this responsibility, however, the international community has its own important role to play—and we are committed to continuing and expanding our support for protection and assistance to such IDPs. As an international donor providing significant support to related UN agencies and offices, we are pleased to hear of the stronger links achieved between the RSG position and key UN agencies, thus increasing the influence and capacity of this position.

Tragically, the recent earthquake in Haiti exemplifies one of the many challenges noted in your report – that of addressing the rights of persons displaced by natural disasters, and of those living in urban settings and with host communities. Although there is still considerable work to be done, we applaud the benchmark efforts of the international community to incorporate the protection of rights as a fundamental component of the humanitarian response in Haiti.

We share the concern, however, that we need still more capacity to protect persons affected by disasters, including IDPs. We note there may be, at times, a tension between an agency’s mandate for protection of IDPs, and the need to protect and assist other populations within a country, such as refugees or stateless persons. Therefore, we urge all relevant actors to continue developing their capacity to monitor and advocate for the rights of all disaster- and conflict-affected populations.

Finally, we would also suggest that the Representative of the Secretary General to look more closely at clarifying the important distinction between population displacement caused by rapid-onset disasters, and migration caused by slow-onset climatic changes, as this distinction will be key to the discussion about how best to respond to the human impact of climate change.

We look forward to the renewal of the RSG mandate and to the continuation of the important analysis and advocacy that the RSG provides on issues of internal displacement worldwide.

With respect to arbitrary detentions and disappearances, the United States commends both of these Working Groups for their efforts in highlighting cases within their mandates. [The 138 arbitrary detention appeals and 29 arbitrary detention opinions concerning a total of 915 individuals were an impressive undertaking for a single year’s work by the five-member Detentions Working Group, as is the transmittal of over 50,000 disappearance cases to Governments since the Disappearances Working Group’s inception.]

We are particularly pleased to see that many detentions and disappearances on which you have each taken action have been resolved or clarified in the last year.

With respect to detentions specifically, we note with regret that your work has revealed an increase in allegations of arbitrary detention in certain countries. Of all the urgent appeals the Detentions Working Group sent to States in 2009, 20% relate to a single country, in which there was concern about the alleged unlawful detention of 184 men, women and children.

Unfortunately we must also mention the reports of several alleged reprisals against the subjects of your two Working Groups’ opinions, appeals and actions. Threats, beatings and other reprisals and acts of intimidation against individuals who may have done nothing more than write a letter to the Secretary General and the Security Council are completely unacceptable.

It is imperative for all States to ensure that all who are in contact with mandate holders remain free from reprisals. Only then can this Working Group, other special procedures, and international human rights instruments fully realize their potential – and shine a light on the worst human rights offenders.

Thank you, Mr. President.