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Intervention for Interactive Dialogue
June 3, 2010

Ambassador Donahoe


Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
United States of America

Human Rights Council 14th Session

Intervention for Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteurs for Torture and Human Rights and Counter Terrorism, and the Working Groups on Arbitrary Detention and Disappearances

Geneva, June 3, 2010

Thank you, Mr. President.

We would also like to thank the Special Rapporteurs (SRs) and Chairpersons for their presentations. As they are aware, we supported the Special Rapporteurs’ efforts to present their study on Secret Detentions during the previous Human Rights Council session, and we were dismayed that its presentation became an avenue to attack the Special Rapporteurs’ independence.

Today, we continue to defend the independence of the Special Rapporteurs and other Special Mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, even as we may take issue with some of the statements contained in this study. Our disagreements should not be misinterpreted as attacks on the SRs. They are voiced in the spirit of an interactive dialogue, which we welcome. That is, an opportunity to engage in a substantive debate with the Special Rapporteurs.

As we have observed in other contexts, President Obama has affirmed the importance of defending U.S. national security “with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability.” During his second full day in office, President Obama issued three Executive Orders providing for comprehensive review and reform of U.S. detention, interrogation, and transfer policies. In particular, President Obama instructed the CIA to close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operated as of January 22, 2009 and ordered that the CIA shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.

Recognizing the need for changes in U.S. policy, President Obama since has taken numerous additional steps to continue to implement the U.S. commitment to upholding the rule of law and has ordered the U.S. Government to take a number of specific measures, including measures related to (1) notice of and timely access for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to any individual detained in any armed conflict in the custody or under the effective control of the U.S. Government, consistent with Department of Defense regulations and policies; (2) the humane treatment of all persons in U.S. custody as a matter of law; and (3) the expansion of the review procedures for detainees held by the Department of Defense in Afghanistan in order to enhance the transparency and fairness of U.S. detention practices.

These measures cumulatively seek to reaffirm the importance of compliance with the rule of law in U.S. detention practices, to ensure U.S. adherence to its international legal obligations, and to promote accountability and transparency in this important area of national security policy.

Turning to the substance of the study, we recognize at the outset that discussing these issues presents a particular challenge given the national security concerns that all governments share. It is important to note that even governments that are fully complying with international law may find it impossible to challenge or comment on false allegations about their conduct with respect to “secret detention” without compromising their national security.

Having said that, we wish to note a general concern with respect to the methodology used for collecting and presenting the information in this study and with the fact that sources of information are not always identified, which makes it very difficult to assess credibility. In addition, we have concerns about some of the specific legal assertions and assumptions in the study. We do, however, strongly agree with the authors of this study that States must abide by their obligations under international law, even when they confront enemies who do not.

The struggle against terrorism is one that requires governments to make difficult decisions. These decisions can be improved by honest and thorough international discussion and analysis, but in all circumstances they must be lawful.

The United States is committed to this fundamental principle.

We thank the Special Rapporteur and the Chairpersons for the opportunity to comment on their study.

Thank you, Mr. President.