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US Concerned About Shrinking Space for Civil Society Around the Globe
September 15, 2014

Item 3 General Debate – Report of the High Commissioner
Statement by the United States of America
As Delivered by Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council
27th Session of the UNHRC
September 15, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Vice-President.

There are many courageous individuals throughout the world who seek to better their homes, their communities, and their countries by presenting new, constructive ideas to advance the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people.   Unfortunately, in many places, governments who feel threatened by change or dissident voices imprison these independent actors because of their political views.  This harms not only the individuals, but their societies as a whole.

Mr. Vice-President, the United States is increasingly concerned at the shrinking space for civil society and independent voices around the globe.  Increased restrictions on freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association have led to violence and the denial of other human rights.  In particular, we are concerned about governments that use detention to stifle dissent.  We call on all states to release prisoners of conscience and to ensure that all individuals receive equal treatment and protection under the law.

As an example of this thematic issue of concern, we note former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich remains imprisoned in Belarus.

In Uzbekistan, journalist and human rights activist Dilmurod Sayid is serving a lengthy sentence that appears to be politically motivated.  In Turkmenistan, there is a dearth of information on the whereabouts or wellbeing of prisoners, and civil society activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov has not been released.

There are many prisoners detained for political reasons in Azerbaijan, including politician Ilgar Mammadov and minority rights activist Hilal Mammadov.

In China, we repeatedly express concern for the systematic pattern of arrests and detentions of people who challenge official Chinese policies and actions, including Xu Zhiyong and members of the New Citizens Movement. 

We also remain concerned about this theme in Egypt where numerous activists have been imprisoned only for participating in peaceful protests, including Ahmed Maher.

In other parts of the world, bloggers and writers are facing increasingly lengthy prison terms for expressing their opinions, including Raef Badawi in Saudi Arabia.

These cases are emblematic of the broader concerns about arbitrary detentions and unfair judicial processes that many human rights defenders suffer as a result of their work.  Mr. Vice-President, we urge states to release political prisoners and to ensure that individuals are not unjustly detained in an effort to chill the exercise of fundamental freedoms.  We call upon states to recognize that the respect for such freedoms and for human rights rebound to the benefit of the society as a whole.