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Dialogues on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on the Human Rights of Migrants
June 13, 2014

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America

UN Human Rights Council – 26th Session
Geneva, June 13, 2014

As Delivered by Michael G. Dozler

Thank you, Madame Chair.

Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

The United States welcomes the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and thanks her for preparing another insightful report for the Council.  We agree that the issues of judicial accountability and independence are integral to the promotion of a justice system and rule of law that can truly serve society as a whole and ensure that all persons are guaranteed equality and receive equal justice under the law.  Fair and equal justice for every party before the courts, without distinction and regardless of position in society, requires impartiality and independence from outside pressures.

The United States also welcomes the Special Rapporteur’s report on her visit to Russia.  We note that while Russian law provides for an independent judiciary, judges remain subject to influence from the executive branch, the military and other security forces, particularly in politically sensitive cases.   As a result, due process is often denied.  Authorities also fail to prosecute individuals responsible for the deaths of many prominent journalists, activists, and whistleblowers, such as Sergey Magnitskiy and Natalia Estemirova, which results in a climate of impunity. While we welcome the recent convictions for the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, we regret that eight years after her murder, the question as to who ordered her murder remains unanswered.

Of course, identifying how to balance judicial accountability and the need for judicial independence is an ongoing process that requires sustained commitment by all states.  We look forward to working with our fellow member states to address this important issue, and working with the Special Rapporteur during her upcoming visit to the United States.

Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

Thank you, Mr. François Crépeau, for your report and for drawing attention to the unfortunately all too common practice of labor exploitation.  Migrant workers around the world – including in the United States – can fall victim to unscrupulous employers, dishonest recruiters, or in the most extreme cases, human traffickers.  We agree that the solutions to these complex phenomena can only come through cooperation between local and federal governments, labor source and destination countries, businesses, labor organizations, multilateral institutions, civil society, and migrants themselves.  We appreciate your focus on particularly vulnerable populations of migrants, such as women and children, who face unique risks.  In devising policies, it is essential to take these specialized needs into account.

We concur with your recommendations on the importance of governments supporting the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and encouraging their implementation by employers.   Labor sending countries can help prevent exploitation through outreach and education efforts, such as through pre-departure training and post-departure consular assistance.  Countries of destination have an important role in combating wage theft, contract switching, and discrimination; in providing appropriate resources to labor inspectorates to identify violations and investigate complaints; and in ensuring safe and healthy working conditions, especially in sectors with a high proportion of migrants.

The United States also advocates adoption of protections for workers, such as prohibitions on charging recruitment fees and withholding identity documents, and providing access to effective judicial and non-judicial remedies.  We emphasize the importance of the freedom of association and recognize the right of all migrants to form and join organizations, including unions, as one means of empowering migrants to defend their own rights.

While there is much for all of us to do to prevent labor exploitation, such as through enforcement of labor and non-discrimination laws, it is also important to keep in mind the underlying issues that cause individuals to migrate in search of work – conflict and insecurity, lack of economic opportunity, limited political freedoms, and underdevelopment.