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U.S. encourages all states to create an enabling environment for civil society
September 22, 2014

Item 5 General Debate: Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America
As Delivered by Kristen Pappas
UN Human Rights Council – 27th Session
September 17, 2014


Thank you, Mr. President.

We want to emphasize the importance of states’ commitment to creating an enabling environment for civil society and encourage all states to work together and with relevant regional, UN, and civil society mechanisms in this effort.  We all suffer when civil society actors are retaliated against for cooperating with this Council, special procedures mandate holders, the working group of the Universal Periodic Review, or any UN body.

Civil society actors play a number of tremendously important roles in the functioning of the Human Rights Council and its subsidiary bodies.  Whether we are speaking about an NGO that conducts an outreach campaign to call states’ attention to an urgent human rights situation somewhere in the world, an activist who travels here to Geneva to share his/her experiences with delegations and humanize the challenges a particular population is facing, or a watchdog organization that guards institutional norms and processes, civil society is essential to our work.

When civil society organizations are not permitted to share their point of view or feel they must censor themselves out of fear of what might happen to their staff, the Council’s work and its credibility suffer.

The Secretary General outlines forty cases in sixteen countries of alleged reprisals against civil society actors in his 2014 annual report on Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.  These cases of reprisals are alleged to be in response to individuals’ interactions with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council, special procedures mandate holders, human rights treaty bodies, the universal periodic review mechanism, and/or one of several commissions of inquiry established by this Council.

As the Secretary General notes himself, the allegations vary in their nature, but include “a wide range of violations,” against individual members of civil society, including those involving “threats, travel bans, and arbitrary detention to torture and, sadly, death.” Communications about these allegations from UN human rights experts and special procedures mandate holders to eleven of the sixteen states named in the report have gone unanswered.

The United States believes that the member states of the Human Rights Council have a responsibility to defend the individuals and organizations that interact with the Council and its mechanisms.  Today we call upon those states that have failed to respond to communications to do so immediately.

We regret that consideration of Human Rights Council resolution 24/24 was not concluded during the 68th General Assembly. We support resolution of this issue as soon as possible. We reiterate our view that HRC resolutions are self-executing, in the sense that the General Assembly does not need to approve or endorse them.

Thank you Mr. President.