U.S. Speaks Out Against Supression of Voices of Human Rights Defenders

Clustered ID: Special Rapporteur on Torture, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders
Statement Delivered by

Ambassador Keith Harper
U.S. Representative to the Human Rights Council

28th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

March 9, 2015

Geneva

Thank you, Mr. President.

The United States welcomes Special Rapporteur Michel Forst’s first report to the human rights council and commends him for the work he has done so far.  We are especially supportive of Mr. Forst’s desire to consider cross-cutting issues in his mandate, including freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.

We note that the Rapporteur did not discuss any specific cases of human rights defenders in his initial report.  Would the rapporteur consider analyzing the following cases of attacks on human rights defenders in his future reports?

The fact remains that far too many governments are trying to suppress the voices of human rights defenders through criminalizing their actions.

Illustrative of this thematic concern, Ahmed Maher of Egypt has remained imprisoned since he was first arrested on November 29, 2013 for peacefully demonstrating against the government.

Similarly, those detained in Syria for their commitment to documenting human rights abuses, including Razan Zeitouneh, a human rights lawyer, are among the types of situations the mandate should consider.

In Sudan, the three “Sudan Call” signers/attendees –  Amin Mekki Medani, Farouq Abu Eissa, and Farah Ibrahim Mohamed Alagar – remain detained in connection with exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association.

The United States is deeply concerned by the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s continued restriction of freedom of expression.  In July 2014 human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko and editor of The Nation Bheki Makhubu were found guilty of contempt of court, stemming from articles that they had written in The Nation magazine criticizing the judicial system. They were sentenced to two years in prison.

Leopoldo Lopez of Venezuela has been beaten in prison and held for over a year after he was arrested for merely for political opposition activities.  More recently, opposition Mayor Antonio Ledezma was imprisoned, along with Mayor Daniel Ceballos and dozens of student protestors for dissent.

In Belarus, former presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevich still remains imprisoned as a result of the December 2010 crackdown on the political opposition and civil society.

And in Cuba, we remain concerned about the continued politically-motivated imprisonment of independent activists and artists, including Danilo Maldonado, also known as “El Sexto,” who was arrested before attempting a public performance, and Maikel Oksobo, also known as “El Dkano,” an independent rapper detailed after he accused officials of corruption.

And finally in Azerbaijan, a number of human rights defenders remain incarcerated, including Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif, Intigam Aliyev, Rasul Jafarov, and President of the Election Monitoring and Democracy studies Center Anar Mammadli.

Thank you.