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Too Many Governments Continue to Restrict Freedoms of Expression and Association
March 8, 2013

Item 3: General Debate

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council 22st Session
March 8, 2013


Thank you, Mr. President.

In this session Council members will deliberate on resolutions concerning both Human Rights Defenders and Peaceful Protests.  These issues lie at the intersection of the universal rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and they deserve our fullest attention.

As we gather here, seized with a full agenda to promote and protect universal human rights, there are individuals in each of our countries who are working tirelessly to fight against human rights violations and degradation.  Human rights defenders, who often work at great risk, threatened with reprisal, fight to ensure that the obligations and commitments of governments are implemented in the real world in their own communities. Whether through global movements, such as One Billion Rising, which struggles to bring an end to the cowardly scourge of violence against women, or through the courageous actions of individuals like Malala Yousafzai, who was almost assassinated for simply wanting to be educated, there is little doubt that human rights defenders are facing increasingly grave challenges to their lives and work.  Too many governments continue to restrict rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and freedom of expression; and too many governments continue to threaten and harass both human rights defenders, and the lawyers and legal professionals who bravely represent them when a government clamps down.  We must all work together to support Human Rights Defenders and ensure that governments uphold their freedom and human rights.  We must also protect the lawyers and legal professionals who face threats and arbitrary restrictions on their ability to carry out their professional duties.

Human Rights Defenders, and civil society more broadly, are also vital in advancing the human rights of the most vulnerable.  During this session we will be considering resolutions on the Rights of the Child, the Right of Persons Belonging to Minorities, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In many cases, members of these vulnerable groups are discriminated against and do not have the ability to speak for themselves, so it is often through the tireless advocacy work of human rights defenders that their rights are protected.  Nelson Mandela once said that “we owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.”  Our children and other vulnerable members of our societies all deserve our utmost attention and protection.  We look forward to working with our partners at the Council to ensure the rights of every person.

Thank you, Mr. President.