An official website of the United States government

The United States Greatly Values the Work of Human Rights Defenders Around the World
June 10, 2013

Item 8: General Debate
U.S. Statement, June 10, 2013

As Delivered by Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Thank you, Mr. President.

We align ourselves with the statements previously made by Germany, the Czech Republic, Norway and Tunisia. The United States greatly values the work of human rights defenders around the world.  In doing their work, these individuals, their families, and those who support their efforts, including many lawyers and legal professionals, often face serious risks and dangerous situations that include threats, attacks, violence, harassment, and acts of intimidation.  It is the obligation of governments to protect the rights of human rights defenders and to prevent retribution against them for their work.The United States greatly values the work of human rights defenders around the world

We remain gravely concerned by ongoing threats and attacks on human rights defenders, especially those most vulnerable.  In this regard, we want to highlight the increasing attacks, arrests, and harassment of human rights defenders who stand up to protect persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.  This civil rights struggle is similar to struggles for racial and gender equality that also placed many human rights defenders in danger and reminds us of the Vienna declaration’s clear call that “it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

We urge States to investigate, in a prompt, effective, independent, and accountable manner, complaints and allegations regarding threats, crimes, or human rights violations perpetrated against human rights defenders and to initiate, when appropriate, proceedings against the perpetrators so as to ensure the end of impunity for such acts.

We also urge the immediate and unconditional release of any human rights defenders, family members of human rights defenders, or lawyers or legal professionals representing human rights defenders, who are unjustly imprisoned or held under house arrest.

The United States is deeply concerned at the narrowing space for civil society, including human rights defenders, around the world.  We align ourselves with the statement read by Germany regarding Egypt.  There have been similarly restrictive NGO laws in other states, as detailed in the report of Special Rapporteur Kiai.

Regarding remedies for human rights violations, we remain deeply concerned about the arrest, conviction, and reports of abuse in Iran of individuals, like the seven Iranian leaders of the Baha’i Faith and Iranian-American citizen Saeed Abedini, who are serving long prison sentences on charges related to their religious beliefs.  We reiterate our call for the Iranian government to provide Mr. Abedini needed medical attention and to release these prisoners immediately.

The Vienna Declaration states “Every State should provide an effective framework of remedies to redress human rights grievances or violations.”  We urge states to meet their commitment in this regard, and to respect the crucial role that human rights defenders play in holding states accountable to their human rights obligations and commitments.

Thank you, Mister President.