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U.S Statement at General Debate on Opening Day of 21st Human Rights Council
September 10, 2012

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 21st Session

September 10, 2012

Thank you, Madam President.  Thank you, Madame High Commissioner.

The United States applauds the commitment of your office to respond effectively to, and as the Secretary General said “shine a light on,” situations where human rights are most at risk.  The serious human rights challenges affecting countries throughout the world demonstrate a clear need for effective measures to promote human rights at both international and national levels.

The United States welcomes the increasing number of cross-regional initiatives undertaken by the Human Rights Council, including the establishment of new mandates, which indicate the Council’s determination to address multiple human rights issues and challenges.  A year ago, along with many delegations, the United States co-sponsored a resolution establishing a Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation, and non-recurrence.  We look forward to his report at this session.

In this session, we will work with partners to consolidate and build upon the progress the Council has made to promote the rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association.  Two years ago, we established the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association. In this session, the United States is working together with our cross-regional core group to present a new resolution at this session to underscore these essential rights and to underline how those rights empower civil society.  We look forward to this resolution being adopted by consensus.

With respect to the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Syria, we welcome the report of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) and look forward to the interactive dialogue next week.  The importance of this mandate cannot be overstated.  The onus is upon this Council to ensure that those who commit such heinous human rights violations are investigated and identified so that the perpetrators can be held accountable.  The United States strongly supports the extension of the mandate of the Commission and once again calls for them to be granted access to Syria.  The Commission’s tireless efforts to document these violations and to provide credible, independent reporting on the atrocities in Syria are crucial to ensure that the calls for justice of the Syrian people and the international community are not ignored.  Let’s not forget how we got here:  It is as a direct result of a brutal regime that reacted violently to peaceful demonstrations and to this day remains bent on denying its people universal human rights.  There can be no doubt that the architect of this destruction is Bashar Al Assad, and his regime must end.

We thank the Independent Expert on Sudan for his report. We note that the IE needs to visit the areas of Blue Nile, South Kordofan and Darfur, where the human rights situation has deteriorated considerably in the last year.  We cannot ignore the voices in Sudan calling for an end to the conflict in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile through political negotiations.  We also reiterate our call for immediate humanitarian access to the affected populations.  The Government of Sudan must do more to fulfill its obligations to protect freedoms of peaceful assembly and association and freedom of expression.  At this session, the Council must urge the Government of Sudan to provide the IE access to all areas of the country, as well as make good on its promise to provide humanitarian access to all areas of concern.

Finally, the United States looks forward to the panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the UN.  The Secretary General’s report illustrates that some governments persist in refusing to grant access to international mandate holders, hamper independent assessments, and continue to subject human rights defenders who collaborate with mandate holders to intimidation and reprisals.  The Human Rights Council must make it a priority to solve the problem of lack of cooperation with UN mechanisms in the field of human rights, and the protection of civilians in situations of violence must be the focus of our collective efforts.  Only then will we live up to our shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.

We also applaud new initiatives that reach across UN institutions, for example the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy implemented this year by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and greatly appreciate the effort that OHCHR and DPKO are making in this regard.

Thank you, Madam President.