An official website of the United States government

U.S. Statement on Freedom of Religion or Belief – Item 3
March 6, 2013

Item 3:  Clustered Dialogue: Working Group on Disappearances and Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council 22nd Session
March 5, 2013


Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States thanks the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances for its report.  We support the Working Group and encourage all states to engage cooperatively with it as it undertakes activities in fulfillment of its mandate.  We note with concern that several states have outstanding visit requests from the Working Group, and one has yet to set a date for the Working Group’s visit after accepting the visit nine years ago.

We remain concerned by the Working Group’s report of “a pattern of threats, intimidation and reprisals” against family members, witnesses, and human rights defenders working on cases of enforced disappearance.  We urge states to take action against such reprisals and to hold accountable those responsible.

The United States appreciates the Working Group’s efforts on the issue of reparations.  It is important to note that individuals have the right to an effective remedy for violations of their rights, as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the ICCPR.  However, we observe that non-parties to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance are not under the specific obligations regarding reparations specified in that treaty, and that the Working Group’s recommendations are not legal obligations.

We appreciate the Working Group’s focus on the issues facing women and children affected by enforced disappearances.  These issues, addressed by the Working Group in separate general comments, are worthy of serious consideration.  While general comments are advisory in nature and are not to be construed as either restricting or expanding existing international obligations or rules, or as authoritative interpretations of such obligations or rules, we thank the independent experts who comprise the Working Group for the observations and views expressed in the Working Group’s general comments on these important issues.


The United States also thanks Special Rapporteur Bielfeldt.  We appreciate his focus on the need to respect and protect freedom of religion or belief of persons belonging to religious minorities.

Many of the Special Rapporteur’s documented violations are confirmed through our own Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.  Despite some progress, the overall status of religious freedom in the world is sliding backward, especially for religious minorities.  We stand by those reaching for greater dignity and freedom and demanding that their governments institutionalize democratic reform.  We are concerned by governments that fail to protect religious minorities, reform discriminatory laws, or speak out against hate on the basis of religion or belief.  Many countries restrict religious freedom supposedly to ensure public safety, even though studies have shown that suppression of religious freedom is directly correlated with instability and violence.  Some states use the pretext of countering violent extremism to suppress religious freedom and other human rights, even though such suppression itself can lead to radicalization.  Those arrested on charges of extremism are often subject to torture, beatings, and harsh prison conditions.

We also note the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations for promoting religious freedom and tolerance, many of which have been outlined in Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18.  We continue to urge implementation of the constructive measures laid out in that resolution, including the development of outreach programs to religious minorities, training for government officials on religious and cultural needs and sensitivities, promoting understanding through education and the media, and interfaith dialogue.

Finally, we would like to underscore the important role of civil society, religious communities, and national human rights institutions to promote religious freedom along with governments, and to speak out against intolerance.  The United States continues to establish partnerships with groups and individuals around the globe and we are using our convening power to bring together various groups to advance religious freedom around the world.

  • What more should the international community do to help protect the human rights of members of religious minority groups?
  • Are there particular national laws that are most often subject to abuse in restricting freedom of religion?

Thank you, Mr. President.