Item 8: General Debate
September 23, 2013
Thank you, Mr. President.
The VDPA affirms that democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. It goes on to state that “Democracy is based on the freely expressed will of the people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives.”
But clearly individuals cannot freely exercise their human rights or fully participate in all aspects of their lives if they are unjustly imprisoned or arbitrarily detained.
Over the past few years, we have witnessed dramatic developments in democracy and human rights globally – some positive, others negative. One of the most concerning negative trends has been the use of arbitrary detention and unjust imprisonment, including against political leaders, opposition figures, lawyers, human rights defenders, family members of human rights activists, and people simply exercising their human rights.
We condemn these practices, which are pervasive in countries such as Belarus, Cuba, North Korea, and Syria, and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience. In China, we are concerned that activists, dissenters, and religious adherents continue to be detained for their views, and we call for their release.
While these practices are also common in Iran, we welcome the Iranian government’s release of political prisoners, and call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran. We also welcome the steps that the Government of Myanmar is taking to review the status of all of its political prisoners.
For countries undergoing democratic transitions, we must not allow peoples’ hope for a democratic future succumb to the abusive practices of the past.
In Egypt, we oppose all arbitrary arrests, including political arrests, and encourage the interim government to move forward on an inclusive process that brings all sides into a democratic process. We reiterate our support for credible and independent investigations into recent violence to ensure accountability for human rights violations.
In Bahrain, we oppose the continued practice of arrests and imprisonment of individuals peacefully exercising their right to free expression, and call for their release. We also encourage all parties’ return to the National Dialogue.
And in the spirit of the VDPA, we call on all states to make freeing all prisoners of conscience a reality. Thank you.