Action on Syria, Belarus Among Top U.S. Priorities at 20th Human Rights Council Session

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 20th Session

Geneva

June 18, 2012

 Thank you, Madame President.

Thank you, Madame High Commissioner.  The United States would once again like to thank the High Commissioner and your office for all the work that you do throughout the world in order to promote and protect human rights. Your statement highlights the vital role your office plays as an independent monitor and first responder to human rights situations worldwide.  Civil society actors, citizens, and governments look to you for leadership, and the significance and impact of your office depends upon your ability to speak out for victims in real time and hold governments accountable.

During this session, the United States will work with partners to consolidate and build upon the progress the Council has made in the protection of women, children, and victims of trafficking.  The United States will work with Botswana, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Slovakia, and Turkey to pursue a resolution on the right to a nationality, particularly for women and children, in order to underline the importance of the right to nationality for all – without discrimination.  We hope that all states will join in our initiative, keeping in mind that the protection and promotion of the human rights of women reverberates positively throughout societies and brings about positive change and progress for all.

Recent events continue to underscore the fundamental importance of free speech and the power of peaceful demonstrations.  The world has watched as governments tightened restrictions on communications as a means to suppress national dialogue and dissent.  During this session, we are pleased to join with Brazil, Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey and  Sweden to present a resolution on the Promotion, Protection and Enjoyment of Human Rights on the Internet.  As an open platform for ideas and innovation, the Internet is a catalyst for economic growth and development.  We will continue to call upon governments to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms both online and off.

Some believe that the Human Rights Council should not address country-specific situations.  We disagree.  The credibility of the UN’s human rights machinery depends on its capacity to address urgent and persistent human rights situations where and when they emerge; to make a difference in the lives of the people who suffer under oppressive governments; and to protect those around the world who work to advance the cause of human rights.

The United States is gravely concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in Belarus since the last presidential election, particularly the continued suppression of the rights to freedoms of association, assembly, and expression; the right to a fair trial; and continued politically-motivated detentions.

The Council recently held a fourth Special Session on the human rights situation in Syria, with a particular focus on the tragic massacre in Al Houleh.  We welcome the recent report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry for Syria, and look forward to its focused report on the events in Al Houleh.  Once again we call on the government of Syria to allow full and unfettered access to the COI.  The United States demands an end to the Asad regime’s outrageous crimes against the people of Syria.  Those who committed these atrocities must be identified and held accountable.  The United States will work with all who are willing to demand justice for the people of Syria and we especially urge countries that have influence with Syria to join us in this and in other efforts that will help halt the violence.

Thank you, Madame President.