Item 8: General Debate on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Item 8:  General Debate on the Vienna Declaration & Programme of Action
Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America, as delivered by Jason Mack

UN Human Rights Council – 35th Session
Geneva, June 19, 2017

Thank you Mr. Vice President,

At a time when members of civil society are under attack, the United States stands firm in our commitment to support a pluralistic and robust civil society, to include support of those who experience reprisals for their engagement in this Council.

This body should recall the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action in addressing this issue.  The Vienna Declaration states that “every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, expression and religion,” and that non-governmental organizations “should be free to carry out their human rights activities, without interference.”  To promote these freedoms, we call upon States to refrain from implementing measures which infringe upon the freedoms of association, assembly, expression and religion, such as labeling non-governmental organizations as subversive; exacting retribution, such as harassing or jailing individuals for engagement with UN or other human rights mechanisms or practicing their religion; or, placing arbitrary limitations on the travel of activists, including revoking passports.

Moreover, we strongly condemn the harassment of human rights defenders by member states, such as Venezuela.  Members of the Venezuelan delegation accosted and threatened panelists who participated in a side event during this very session.  That is unacceptable.

This body should also recall Article 30 of the Vienna Declaration. With regard to the Philippines, we recognize the desire of the Philippine government to address the challenge of illegal drugs, but as it pursues these efforts, we believe it is important that the Philippine government investigate the allegations of the thousands of killings by security forces and unknown assailants and hold accountable anyone found responsible.

Thank you.