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Human Rights Defenders and NGOs Must Never Be Made to Feel Threatened at HRC
June 29, 2012

Item 6 General Debate
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America on the Universal Periodic Review
Human Rights Council 20th Session
As Delivered by Patrick Reilly
June 29, 2012

Thank you, Madame President.

The Universal Periodic Review allows for an honest and open dialogue between United Nations Member States, United Nations agencies and mechanisms, and civil society.  The goal is that, through dialogue, real improvements can be made to the lives of citizens.  But this goal can only be met when all participants are able to speak openly, without fear of persecution, retribution, or physical harm.

Although NGO and civil society actors do not officially participate during the formal UPR working group presentations, they are an invaluable voice throughout the process.  The presence of local NGOs during the UPR, and indeed all sessions of the Council, is essential to gaining a full understanding of a country’s human rights situation.  NGOs often speak for those who have no other voice, and their presence here during the reviews allows for a unique exchange of personal stories, collected data, and alternative perspectives, which can shape a more productive dialogue between states.

The United States urges all members and observers of this Council to take every possible measure to protect and encourage the active engagement of NGO and civil society actors in the UPR process, including through their presence at UPR sessions.  We must ensure that no one who seeks to engage the Council is ever made to feel threatened while here or once they have returned home.  As individual states, we must protect our citizens who come before this body.  When we see citizens from other states threatened with harm because of their involvement here, we must speak out.  To remain silent is to be complicit in efforts to deny human rights and to undermine the UPR process and the Human Rights Council as a whole.

Thank you, Madame President.