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Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Violence Against Women
June 3, 2013

Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Expression and Violence Against Women

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
Human Rights Council
UN Human Rights Council – 23rd Session

June 3, 2013

The United States thanks Special Rapporteur La Rue for his report highlighting the close relationship between the right to freedom of expression and privacy rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights state that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy.  The central idea of Internet freedom is that human rights apply with the same force online as offline.  This is true for privacy rights, which enable people to make the most of modern communication technologies.

But some governments see modern communications technologies as threatening, and have sought to use surveillance to attempt to control discourse and eliminate dissent.  If governments are conducting surveillance of private communications for illegitimate purposes  – for instance, to persecute dissidents – or if governments are conducting arbitrary surveillance or surveillance outside the rule of law, then that surveillance may constitute an arbitrary interference with privacy or an improper restriction on the rights to freedom of expression, association or assembly.

In contrast, to protect their citizens, governments must sometimes investigate criminal activity by lawfully obtaining online communications.   Like other rights-respecting governments, the United States conducts surveillance for lawful purposes, pursuant to laws that are transparent, adopted pursuant to democratic processes, and subject to oversight by all three branches of government.  In fact, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and its recent amendments, which the report mischaracterizes as providing a “blanket exception to the requirement for judicial authorization,” are expressly designed to bring certain privacy-impacting activities under judicial and congressional supervision.  Such surveillance, used appropriately, supports human rights.

While the United States cannot endorse all of the conclusions of the report, , including those related to the nature of privacy rights and the test for permissible infringements on privacy, we commend the Special Rapporteur for taking up this difficult issue, and we encourage other States, businesses, and civil society groups to take seriously the human rights concerns raised by the report.

The United States thanks Special Rapporteur Manjoo for her on-going work to address violence against women and welcomes her report on the State responsibility for eliminating violence against women.  Women and girls everywhere should be able to live free from violence, exploitation, and abuse, and this report is an important contribution toward upholding the enjoyment of those rights.

The United States is committed to preventing and addressing violence against women and girls, and has prioritized this issue at home and around the world.  In 1994, the U.S. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a critical step in changing the way violence against women is addressed in the United States.  The United States Department of Justice implements the VAWA and provides financial and technical assistance to communities across the country to develop programs, policies, and practices aimed at ending intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including legal assistance to survivors, court improvement, and training for law enforcement and courts.  Between 1993 and 2007, the number of women killed by an intimate partner declined by 35 percent in the United States.

President Obama signed the reauthorization of the VAWA into law in March 2013.  This most recent iteration closes jurisdictional gaps that had long compromised Native American women’s safety and access to justice; ensures lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims have access to the services they need; and expands protections for immigrant women who experience violence.

In December 2011, the United States released its National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security (NAP) to empower women to act as equal partners in preventing conflict and building peace in countries threatened and affected by war, violence and insecurity.  Through the NAP, the United States will support the development of effective accountability and transitional justice mechanisms that address crimes committed against women and girls.

To further advance our efforts to protect women and girls from violence, the United States released its first U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally in August 2012.  The Strategy calls on executive agencies to execute a comprehensive and multi-sector approach to preventing and responding to gender-based violence around the world.

The United States is committed to addressing violence against women and advancing gender equality as a cornerstone of our foreign policy.