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U.S. Statement on Human Rights Defenders and on Torture
March 6, 2013

Clustered Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders and Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

UN Human Rights Council – 22nd Session
March 5, 2013


Thank you, Mr. President.

  • Human Rights Defenders

The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur for her ongoing work on human rights defenders and welcomes this most recent report.  We also note the important role that national human rights institutions can play in defending human rights and echo the SR’s recommendation that such institutions must be strong, independent and effective.  We strongly agree that the participation of civil society with such institutions is essential for their credibility and effectiveness.  The expertise and participation of non-governmental actors makes these institutions stronger and more pluralistic by recognizing that defenders come from all walks of life but have in common their defense of international human rights.

We look forward to continuing our support of the Special Rappporteur’s work and finding ways to help strengthen the capacity of national human rights institutions and human rights defenders globally.

  • Torture

The United States thanks the Special Rapporteur for his ongoing work on torture and ill-treatment and greatly appreciates the important investigative and factual work of the Special Rapporteur to expose ill treatment in a wide variety of health care settings, as illustrated in this report.  In this context, we applaud his focus on marginalized groups, including individuals with disabilities.  We agree with many of his conclusions: for example with respect to individuals with disabilities, we agree with the Special Rapporteur’s statement that “the State must show that detention is necessary to protect the safety of the person or of others.”

At the same time we disagree with some of the legal conclusions drawn by the Special Rapporteur in his Report, including that the definition of torture is “evolving” and that bad private action in health care should, as a general matter, be considered torture or CIDT.  In addition, we disagree with some of his statements on abortion, Convention Against Torture remedies, state inaction, and medical interventions.   However, such disagreements do not diminish the value of the Report as a tool to push for critical inquiry into the rights of patients and the responsibilities of medical providers, and the ways in which states can clarify and enforce both.

As for the Special Rapporteur’s observations regarding the relationship between drug control regulations and pain treatment, the United States notes that it supports, in accordance with the UN drug control treaties, efforts by the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, while ensuring such drugs are not diverted for illicit purposes.  We also welcome efforts of the World Health Organization, in conjunction with the INCB, to assist governments in developing adequately controlled drug distribution systems, thereby ensuring appropriate availability of drugs for medical and scientific purposes, while minimizing the risk of diversion.

Thank you!