Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America on the Universal Periodic Review
Delivered by John Mariz
Human Rights Council 19th Session, Geneva
Thank you, Madame President.
We join with other delegations in recognizing the overall success of the Universal Periodic Review process, particularly in light of the universal participation we achieved in the first round. We are heartened that a number of states have gone beyond the minimum requirements of the process and have integrated the UPR into ongoing domestic efforts to promote human rights. We are especially encouraged that in nearly every country, the UPR has motivated increasing numbers of human rights advocates and stakeholders, who have engaged their governments, contributed their input, and come to Geneva to directly engage in the process.
We encourage all states and other actors in the UPR process to promote the increased involvement of civil society.
During our UPR review, our delegation, made up of representatives from numerous government departments and agencies, made itself available to our civil society in a manner similar to that of the actual Working Group session. We would modestly suggest this as a best practice for other states to consider during the second cycle. Outside of Geneva, we hope that human rights advocates of all stripes are able to take an active role in contributing to and monitoring the implementation of UPR recommendations in their home countries and are able to engage their governments on the UPR in the years between reviews.
There remains, however, much room for improvement, particularly with regard to the Working Group sessions. In this regard, we are pleased to hear the many voluntary commitments made to improve practices in submitting recommendations, which we fully support, and have previously advocated during the general debate.
We are pleased that as a result of the 2011 Review we have addressed the UPR’s most serious flaw, and that new procedures for determining Working Group speakers lists will now deliver on the UPR’s promise of universal participation. Furthermore, we hope that the randomly determined order of speakers will contribute to the overall credibility of the UPR.
We have all seen instances in the first round where assiduous engineering of the speakers list to reflect regional or bloc support often overshadowed the substance of the discussion. The resulting political cast given to those sessions was plainly apparent and greatly reduced the credibility of the outcome.
The particular circumstances of this Council session underscore one of the most crucial elements in protecting the integrity and usefulness of the UPR. We have just adopted the Working Group reports of Libya and Syria. In both cases last year, those governments presented, not only to the UPR Working Group but also to the international community at large, a fictional account of the state of human rights in those countries. Due to the courageous action of the Libyan people, Libya is now represented by a delegation that is free to speak the truth and has accepted most of the recommendations rejected by the previous regime.
To our great sorrow, however, the Syrian people still suffer under a government that continues to commit systematic violations of their human rights and lies about its own conduct in international fora.
An essential antidote to this deplorable behavior by an abusive government, and the only way to mitigate its damage to the UPR, is the willingness of participating states to speak the truth in response. We urge delegations to bear this in mind as we prepare for the UPR’s second cycle.