At the 36th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, September 11-29, U.S. leadership was active and effective in shaping the international response to urgent human rights situations. On numerous resolutions and actions covering both country-specific and thematic topics, U.S. engagement protected critical equities of the United States, provided clarity on country-specific situations, and achieved successful outcomes on difficult issues.
Yemen: The United States successfully brokered a significant consensus resolution to address the human rights situation in Yemen. The resolution creates a Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts — the strongest mechanism to examine and report on the human rights situation in Yemen to date. The resolution also continues technical assistance and capacity building to the Republic of Yemen Government’s National Commission of Inquiry.
Venezuela: On September 11, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein asserted that crimes against humanity may have been committed in Venezuela. In an address to the Council later that day, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister attempted to shift attention away from the Maduro regime’s continuing human rights violations. The United States denounced the address and echoed the Lima Group’s September 12, joint statement condemning the continued breakdown of democratic order and violations of human rights in Venezuela.
Burundi: The United States co-sponsored a resolution presented by the EU renewing the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Human Rights in Burundi, which passed by a vote of 22 to 11 with 14 abstentions. The United States voted against Burundi’s competing, self-drafted resolution because it painted an incorrect picture of the human rights situation and did not renew the COI. Instead, the latter resolution sponsored by the African Group, which passed 23 to 14 with 9 abstentions, merely requested that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) appoint an expert to strengthen the work of the OHCHR office in Burundi.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): The United States voted against the DRC’s self-drafted resolution, which passed despite inappropriately laudatory language describing DRC efforts to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations and abuses, and weak calls for the DRC to respect its human rights obligations and commitments. The United States delivered a strong statement supporting the continued work of the Group of Experts operating in Kasais region and calling upon the government to fully cooperate with it.
Sudan: The United States co-sponsored a resolution presented by the African Group renewing the mandate of the Independent Expert on Sudan for another year, which passed by consensus. While recognizing some positive developments in Sudan over the past year, the resolution also highlights serious remaining concerns. It also encourages Sudan to intensify its endeavors to address humanitarian needs in conflict-affected areas.
Other Country Situations: The United States co-sponsored a resolution on the violations and abuses of human rights in Syria, particularly on the impact of the civil war on children. The United States supported renewing the mandates of the Independent Experts on Somalia and Central African Republic and extending the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission for Burma for another year. The United States signed joint statements on the human rights situations in Crimea and the Philippines. We joined consensus on a resolution renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia for another two years.
Thematic Resolutions: The United States co-sponsored a resolution to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteurs on truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence. The United States joined consensus on resolutions addressing reprisals against those who would cooperate with the UN, the human rights of indigenous persons, women, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and renewing the mandate of the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances.