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U.S. Highlights Countries of Particular Concern on Human Rights
June 5, 2013

Item 4:  General Debate on Human Rights Situations Requiring Council Attention

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Donahoe

Human Rights Council 23rd Session
Geneva, June 4, 2013

Mr. President,

The United States remains deeply concerned about deplorable human rights situations, especially in Syria, Iran, the DPRK, and Sudan.  We deplore these countries’ targeted attacks against civilians—including, in the case of Syria, the regime’s use of advanced weaponry against civilians.  Also of concern are their restrictions on religious freedom, freedoms of expression and assembly, and persecution of human rights lawyers and activists and their families.  We call on all countries to not forcibly return those seeking to escape human rights violations in DPRK.

We also highlight these countries of concern.

China silences dissent through arrests, forced disappearances, extralegal detentions and other intimidation; has increased Internet controls and press censorship; seeks to control activists by harassing their families and associates; and limits religious freedom, particularly in Tibetan and Uighur areas.

Cuban authorities continue to restrict freedom of expression, limit Internet access, and detain peaceful activists.  Detentions are increasingly violent, particularly in Eastern Cuba where a government-organized mob recently attacked members of the Ladies in White.  We call for Alan Gross’s release and an independent investigation into the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero.

Venezuela must conduct a full audit and review of alleged irregularities during the April elections.  The election should reflect democratic aspirations of Venezuelans and be consistent with Venezuelan electoral law and the country’s obligations under regional and international agreements.

The United States also calls the Council’s urgent attention to recent negative developments in several places.

We are concerned that an escalation of security force abuses in Northern Nigeria is exacerbating tensions and is part of a negative trend in respect for human rights.

As Vietnam’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate, the government limits freedom of expression online through restrictive Internet regulations, and we have seen an uptick of detentions and lengthy prison terms handed down to bloggers.

Two years after the Arab Spring, several countries in the Middle East, including the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, continue to restrict freedom of expression.  There is a disturbing regional trend of imposing new restrictions on civil society, including preventing NGOs from seeking, receiving, and using resources consistent with the right of association.

In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, poor prison conditions, abuse of detainees, torture, harassment of religious minorities, and denial of due process and fair trial continue.  In April, the ICRC terminated detainee visits in Uzbekistan citing the country’s reluctance to follow standard working procedures, and similar problems persist in Turkmenistan.

Sri Lanka should set visit dates and provide access to special procedures.  Violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and reprisals against human rights defenders, members of civil society, and journalists continue.  There have been no credible investigations or prosecutions for attacks on journalists and media outlets.

Thank you.