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Ambassador Donahoe Speaks with Reporters after Passage of the Freedom of Association Resolution
October 1, 2010

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

US Ambassador to the Human Rights Council


Press Availability

 September 30, 2010

Ambassador Donahoe: It would be difficult for me to completely and adequately express my great satisfaction at having just successfully accomplished establishment of a new mandate for freedom of association and assembly at the Human Rights Council.  That is exactly the type of issue that the United States had committed to bring to the top of the Human Rights Council agenda, and as we just observed, we accomplished it with support of all delegations in the room, it was a consensus agreement.

I also note that the countries who chose to make comments about their position, EOPs, all started with a statement of support for the basic principle of freedom of association and assembly, and most of them acknowledge that this principle is enshrined in their own constitutions.

So regardless of any other messages they tried to convey, no one was standing up and articulating any dissociation from the core principle.  So we take that as a mark of great success for this body to have come to a consensus agreement today on this matter.

I also have to say for me personally, to have the opportunity here to usher in a new mandate for freedom of association at the very time that my President has put it at the top of his agenda, he spoke about this last week at UNGA, and he commented on the centrality of freedom of association to all civil rights and human rights movements around the world through history.

In addition Secretary Clinton put this at the top of her agenda in the summer in her Community of Democracy speech when she conveyed the basic idea that if you get a small group of people together and allow them to freely associate and share their thoughts and coalesce around shared principles and values, that is how you change the world.

So we feel like we have just established a victory for that principle.

Question: Once this rapporteur is up and running, do you think that things, say if it were already up and running, things like the Iranian elections, the protest in Moscow, the women’s march in Cuba, are those the sort of things you would expect to see in his or her annual report?

Ambassador Donahoe: Absolutely.  Without a doubt.  Yes.

Question: Do you expect that those countries, even those that disassociated themselves from consensus but didn’t call for a vote, such as China —

Ambassador Donahoe: China, Cuba —

Question: Do you expect that they will cooperate with the mandate?

Ambassador Donahoe: I hope they do.  And let’s put it this way.  If the special rapporteur was not in place there would be no opportunity to test their cooperation.  And part of what we do here is establish these mandates in order to test the sincerity of countries’ words when they say they support freedom of association, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, they use those words out loud.  By having a special rapporteur go into the country, that’s the way we test the validity of what they say out loud here.

Question: Can I just ask about the Sudan mandate?  Are you expecting that to pass?

Ambassador Donahoe: We’re very hopeful.  I don’t think it’s going to come up until tomorrow.  Of course it’s a very important issue, again, to our President and our government, and many countries around the world.  That is an extreme human rights situation and we are very hopeful that that mandate will get renewed, and we would not want to be one of those countries standing up and saying that — Those who stand up and say the human rights situation in Sudan is fine and we no longer need a rapporteur, it’s actually an IE, international expert, I think they’ll be embarrassed over for making those statements on the record.  And we’re hopeful that most countries understand that and will vote to support the renewal.  But we won’t know until tomorrow.  It will be voted.

Question: We heard a statement from the Global Migration Group this morning on protecting the human rights of migrants, whether they’re legal, illegal, irregular, or what.  What sort of implications do you think that has for the law in Arizona?

Ambassador Donahoe: I don’t think I could comment on that right now.  I’m sorry.

Question: The idea that stopping and searching people on the suspicion that they may be illegal migrants, undermines their rights as human beings, that sort of thing.  Is the United States government concerned —

Ambassador Donahoe: I’m not going to get into state law, Arizona, anything like that right here.  That’s not my bailiwick.

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