UNHRC 29th Session: Agenda Item 2, General Debate

Statement of the United States of America

29th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Eric Richardson

Geneva,
June 15, 2015

– As Prepared for Delivery –

Thank you Mister President,

The United States appreciates the High Commissioner’s report.  We welcome continued engagement of OHCHR on human rights challenges throughout the world.  We especially look forward to the Council’s focus on women and the all-day discussion on eliminating violence and participation in power and decision making.  This session also provides opportunities for meaningful engagement on discrimination against women and girls; sexual and reproductive health services and reproductive rights; child, early, and forced marriage; and many other topics.

The grave human rights situation in South Sudan is undeniable, with pervasive reports of violations and abuses of human rights by all parties throughout the country.  A sharp increase in conflict over the last several months has exacerbated the human rights crisis and added to the already enormous suffering of the South Sudanese people.  Currently, over 1.5 million people remain displaced, and 3.8 million people are facing crisis levels of food insecurity.  The UN Secretary General reported in February 2015 that, regrettably, “there has been little in the way of national accountability measures for human rights violations committed to date.”

Within this climate, the Government of South Sudan has severely restricted civil and political rights, which has particularly affected members of the political opposition, civil society, religious leaders, business persons, and journalists.  These actions – taken through new legislation as well as the sometimes arbitrary actions of government officials – have further undermined South Sudan’s democracy.  We call on the HRC to refocus on the suffering of the South Sudanese people and support the creation of a mandate holder for reporting on alleged human rights violations and abuses in South Sudan.  Continued failure to act would be a threat to this Council’s legitimacy in addressing the most serious human rights situations.

The United States welcomes the continued work of the OHCHR Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.  Despite ongoing challenges, the government of Ukraine has embarked on important reforms and engaged with the international community to improve the situation in their country.  However, the situation has worsened in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.  There are documented, widespread abuses by Russian occupation authorities in Crimea and by combined Russian-separatist forces in eastern Ukraine.  We condemn the policies of systematic oppression being employed in Crimea.  These include the targeting of Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians, the closure of the Tatar Mejlis (representative council), and the closure of most local media.

We call on the Government of Bahrain to sign an MOU with OHCHR for technical cooperation and to engage robustly with the High Commissioner.  We are deeply concerned about the continuing criminal cases on grounds of political expression and assembly.  We are also concerned by the charges against opposition groups and leaders, including al-Wifaq Secretary General Ali Salman, and those against Nabeel Rajab related to posts he made on social media.  We are troubled by the practice of withdrawing Bahraini nationality from some citizens.  We understand Bahrain’s serious security considerations, but we also continue to urge the Government of Bahrain to follow due process in all cases and to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings.

Finally, we commend the people of Sri Lanka for restoring democratic institutions and combatting corruption, and urge the government to continue on its path of ensuring accountability and reconciliation.  We look forward to reading the OHCHR’s report on Sri Lanka in August.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with the High Commissioner on these issues, among many others.

Thank you Mister President.