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Ambassador Donahoe’s Statement on the HCHR’s Annual Report – Item 2
March 1, 2013

Item 2: General Debate-Annual Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Reports of the OHCHR and SYG

Statement by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

Human Rights Council 22nd Session
February 28, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States welcomes the High Commissioner’s opening statement.  As the High Commissioner’s report states, the ongoing armed conflicts in Syria and now Mali have resulted in thousands of deaths, widespread displacement, violations of international law, and a frightening climate of impunity.  We will focus on the human rights aspects of these and other crises.

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.  The latest report from the Commission of Inquiry details horrifying accounts of killings, deliberate and systematic torture, rape, assault, and destruction of civilian property – including the targeting of schools and mosques.  Ongoing reports of gender-based violence are alarming.  The COI has also worked to identify those responsible for human rights violations in Syria.  Their work, as well as the work of groups like the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center, provide a critical foundation for accountability.  We fully support extending the commission’s mandate.

Over the past year Mali has suffered one crisis after another.  Until very recently, Malians faced the horror of rule by violent extremists in the north, where terrorist groups dispensed with due process and inflicted cruel punishment on the citizenry.  Violations have also occurred in the south, including extrajudicial and summary executions, torture, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. We concur with the High Commissioner’s emphasis on having a human rights presence in any deployment of UN Peacekeeping personnel into conflict situations.  We will continue to support Mali in its recovery.

When conflicts end, promoting reconciliation and accountability through transitional justice is imperative.  To this end, Sri Lanka must promptly implement the constructive recommendations of its own Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission.  It must address accountability for violations of international law and investigate allegations of war crimes.  We welcome OHCHR’s recent report on Sri Lanka’s efforts and share the High Commissioner’s concern about the government’s lack of genuine action on these issues, as well as its recent efforts to undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.  We stand ready, with OHCHR, to help Sri Lanka address outstanding issues related to reconciliation, democratic governance, and accountability.

Chronic violations of universal human rights can take many forms and are most pervasive among members of vulnerable groups such as women, children, disabled people, and the LGBT community.  We commend OHCHR for promoting gender equality and women’s rights.

Thank you, Mr. President.