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U.S. Statement on Opening Day of 23rd Session of Human Rights Council
May 27, 2013

Item 2: General Debate

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

As delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Human Rights Council 23rd Session
Geneva, May 27, 2013

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States commends the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its important work to safeguard human rights around the world.

Last Thursday, President Obama laid out the framework for U.S. counterterrorism strategy, including standards and procedures formalizing and strengthening the review and approval of drone strikes.  He also reaffirmed our commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and proposed a series of steps to achieve that end, including his intention to lift the Presidential moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen. While it will take some time to fully close Guantanamo, all U.S. detention operations will continue to be carried out in accordance with all applicable international and domestic laws.

We thank the High Commissioner for her reporting on violence against women and girls and on discrimination against women in nationality-related matters.  The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire, retain, and confer it on their children, reduces the likelihood that they will become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm.  Although there have been positive developments, many nationality laws still discriminate against women.  We recall our own history of seeking to achieve equal nationality rights for women and urge all States to refrain from enacting or maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation and to reform nationality laws that discriminate against women, consistent with Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We echo the concerns of OHCHR about governmental efforts to increase restrictions on civil society.  A Russian NGO law compels civil society to register as foreign agents if they receive funding from abroad and engage in “political activity.”   Such laws have been used to harass and prosecute thousands of NGOs and religious groups.  Draft legislation in Egypt would also severely restrict NGO operations.  We urge these governments to consult with civil society on this type of legislation and to guarantee the right to freedom of association.

Over the last 26 months we have witnessed a brutal conflict in Syria.  The Assad regime, drawing upon an arsenal of heavy weapons, aircraft, ballistic missiles, and—potentially—chemical weapons, has killed or injured untold numbers of civilians who for many months manifested their opposition purely through peaceful protest.

Most recently, the Assad regime used intense air and artillery strikes against the civilian populations in the Syrian town of Al-Qusayr, along the Lebanese border. The Assad regime deliberately provokes sectarian tensions through its assaults, and we reject the regime’s use of sectarian-driven war to divide the Syrian people.  The Assad regime and its supporters who continue to commit crimes against the Syrian people should know that the world is watching and that they will be identified and held accountable.

We also condemn the intervention of Iran and its proxies in Syria. In particular, Hizballah’s presence in the villages along the Lebanese-Syrian border.

The consequences of this crisis are growing. The generosity of the governments and people of Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and others who host large numbers of refugees has been extraordinary, but these countries now face grave threats to their security of their own populations. Thank you Mr. President.