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Item 5: General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
September 22, 2017

Statement by the United States of America as delivered by Jason Mack

Human Rights Council 36th Session
Geneva, September 22, 2017

Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

At this Council, participation of civil society is a critical component for addressing ongoing human rights concerns.

The United States has long urged member states to end acts of reprisal against members of civil society for their engagement with the UN.  Member states must ensure the ability of civil society to engage with the UN without fear of retaliation. UN bodies, mechanisms, and representatives also share a responsibility to expose and address reprisals effectively.

Resolutions 12/2, 24/24 and the San Jose Guidelines of 2015, among other documents, detail numerous ways of addressing reprisals.  We welcome the work of the Assistant Secretary-General as well as the Secretary-General’s reports on reprisals.  However, we believe more should be done by the Presidents and membership of relevant UN bodies to address reprisals.

The United States was appalled by direct threats of retaliation levied against Venezuelan panelists by the Venezuelan delegation during a side event of Human Rights Council’s 35th session.  Their threats of “consequences” for UN participation were in stark contrast to the panel’s advocacy on the need to uphold universal freedoms, including the right to freedom of expression, for all Venezuelan citizens.

We also note the record of reprisals committed by the Chinese government.  China has consistently worked to silence criticism of its human rights record before a variety of UN bodies, demonstrating contempt for the procedures of the UN.  Reprisals by the Chinese government include: the harassment of civil society and UN staff; attempts to block NGO accreditation; and the attempted “blacklisting” of accredited activists.

Civil society plays a critical role in highlighting human rights concerns for this councils attention. The Human Rights Council has a responsibility to address acts of reprisals committed against them.

Thank you.