Item 2: General Debate- Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the OHCHR and SYG
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
Human Rights Council 16th Session
Geneva, May 30, 2011
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States welcomes the breadth of reporting from the High Commissioner’s office this session. We appreciate your focused attention on recent events, including reporting on Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, and Cote d’Ivoire. Furthermore, we note with appreciation the High Commissioner’s consistent and prompt public statements on situations of concern. Your statements and the work of your office send important signals to violators and victims alike, and we encourage you to continue with these efforts.
We applaud OHCHR’s work despite the many challenges during the reporting period. We look forward to discussing the reports of the Commissions of Inquiry on Libya and Cote d’Ivoire and the OHCHR progress report on Syria. We note however, whereas the Commission of Inquiry has been afforded access to Libya, the Syrian regime’s refusal to afford similar access is intolerable. We call on all members of the Council to insist that the Council-mandated Fact Finding Mission be allowed to carry out its work. The lack of access to Syria hinders the OHCHR’s ability to report on the urgent and deteriorating human rights situation. We call on the Syrian government to expeditiously admit OHCHR to the country and allow for an objective and independent investigation. We also reiterate the Council’s demand for the Syrian government to stop killing, imprisoning, and torturing demonstrators.
In Libya, the ongoing nature of the crisis underscores the importance of renewing the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate at this session. In Cote d’ Ivoire, the government under President Ouattara has signaled its seriousness in protecting and promoting human rights and this Council should do all that it can to remain engaged and support his efforts.
We echo the High Commissioner’s concerns with the situations in Yemen and Bahrain and we are pleased that both governments have agreed to host visits by the OHCHR. In Yemen, President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. In his May 19 speech on the Middle East, President Obama made clear that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and with the objective of achieving stability. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, but real dialogue is not possible when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.
The United States also remains concerned about the government crackdown in Belarus. Along with the continued repression of civil society representatives, independent journalists, democratic activists, and especially presidential candidates, the politically motivated trials and harsh sentences are a major step backward for democracy in Belarus. The situation has risen to a level that this Council can no longer ignore, and we join the European Union in calling for a resolution to create a Special Rapporteur this session.
We are grateful for the Secretary-General’s leadership in convening the Panel of Experts on Sri Lanka and we appreciate the OHCHR’s attention to the Panel’s report. Our hope is that the Sri Lankan government takes the allegations in the report seriously and ensures accountability measures are undertaken to prevent impunity. This Council must consider the serious abuses that have been documented and brought to our attention by the Panel. Both the Sri Lankan response and this Council’s response to these allegations are being closely watched. The United States is deeply concerned by the findings in the Panel of Expert’s report and we are committed to seeing a credible accounting of, and accountability for, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. We all agree that Sri Lanka must adopt the measures necessary to achieve national and ethnic reconciliation and build a united, democratic, and peaceful Sri Lanka. But reconciliation must be built on accountability. Sri Lanka must quickly and credibly address allegations of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the conflict, no matter which side committed them. We hope Sri Lanka responds constructively to the Panel’s report and are prepared to consider appropriate next steps to achieve accountability and national reconciliation for the people of Sri Lanka.
Thank you, Mr. President.