Key Outcomes of U.S. Priorities at the UN Human Rights Council’s 34th Session
03/27/2017 05:11 PM EDT
The United States returned to the UN Human Rights Council as a voting member in January after spending a mandatory year off the Council and securing reelection last year. At the Council’s 34th Session in Geneva from February 27-March 24, U.S. leadership proved critical to shaping the international response to urgent human rights situations and issues. The United States introduced three priority resolutions that the Council adopted with broad cross-regional support. The United States also actively defended Israel from unbalanced criticism and, through vigorous lobbying, reduced support for these resolutions.
Supporting Israel: The United States worked closely with Israel and other partners to reduce support for anti-Israel resolutions introduced under the biased Agenda Item 7, the only Council agenda item focused on a single country. The United States and Togo voted against every resolution under this agenda item, while many partners abstained on the resolutions and the United Kingdom echoed the U.S. call for reform of the Council over concern about the unfair treatment of Israel at the Council and joined in voting no on the Syrian Golan resolution.
South Sudan: In response to the alarming report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, the United States led a resolution to renew the Commission’s mandate for one year and to collect and preserve evidence that can be used in future judicial efforts. We worked closely with South Sudan, members of the African Group, and other member states to ensure the text was adopted by consensus.
Sri Lanka: The United States was the lead sponsor of a resolution to extend for two years a UN role in monitoring and reporting on Sri Lanka’s implementation of commitments to promote justice and reconciliation. Sri Lanka was one of the 47 co-sponsors.
North Korea: The United States co-sponsored a resolution to strengthen the ability of the OHCHR Seoul office to collect evidence that could be used to hold those responsible for human rights violations and abuses in North Korea accountable.
Burma: The United States supported the establishment of an independent international Fact Finding Mission into alleged recent human rights violations and abuses in Burma, including in Rakhine state.
Other Country-specific Resolutions: The United States played a key role in garnering support for resolutions which renewed mandates on Iran and Syria, as well as the Council’s decision to promote technical assistance to improve human rights in Haiti. The United States also supported cooperative resolutions drawing attention to the human rights situations in Mali, Libya, and Georgia.
Freedom of Expression: The United States was the lead sponsor of a resolution which garnered over 70 co-sponsors renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, ensuring continued international attention to this fundamental freedom.
Torture: The United States co-sponsored a resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Freedom of Religion or Belief, Combatting Religious Intolerance, and Combating Racism and Xenophobia: The United States is pleased that the Council adopted by consensus resolutions that underscore the importance of both the rights to freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression. The United States also supported a resolution calling for increased UN attention to the human rights of persons of African descent.
Human Rights Defenders and the forum on Human Rights, Democracy, and Rule of Law: The United States strongly supported resolutions to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and to continue the forum on Human Rights, Democracy, and the Rule of Law. We are pleased that numerous hostile amendments intended to weaken these resolutions were defeated.