Item 8 General Debate – Vienna Declaration & Programme of Action

U.S. Statement as Prepared for Delivery

Human Rights Council 37th Session
Geneva, March 20, 2018

Mr. President,

The Vienna Declaration and Program of Action calls for democracy, justice, equality, and the rule of law as key principles for the protection and full enjoyment of human rights, particularly during elections.  This Council must encourage all states to uphold these principles, and Council membership should lead by example, promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law both at home and abroad.

No state is perfect, and we all face our challenges.  Despite these challenges, in the past year many states have undergone political transitions in which the will of the voters was respected, improving the prospects for greater enjoyment of rights and freedoms.  For instance, we commend Ecuador, Liberia, and The Gambia for their peaceful, democratic transitions in the past year.

However, the United States is concerned by electoral developments in a number of other states.

We note Russia’s March 18 presidential election, including concerns about the lack of a level playing field in the run-up to yesterday’s polling.  We support the important work of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and, at this early stage post-election, refer you to that office’s preliminary report.

We are concerned about the decision to abolish the term limits of the President in China’s political system.  The rule of law and peaceful, regular transitions of power after genuinely free and fair elections are essential for effective, stable governance.

In Cuba, the upcoming presidential transition does not reflect any change in the Communist Party’s monopoly on government power nor in the Cuban people’s ability to choose their leadership via free and fair elections.  We remain concerned about the government’s lack of respect for the fundamental freedoms of all Cuban citizens.

As highlighted by the High Commissioner earlier this session, in Venezuela, the Maduro regime’s decision to hold illegitimate snap elections is deeply concerning.  We must collectively insist on free, fair, and transparent electoral processes consistent with Venezuela’s international obligations so that political leaders and members of all political parties have the right and opportunity to participate without unreasonable restrictions.  It is also essential that the processes include a proper electoral calendar, credible international observer missions, and an independent electoral authority.

On this 25th anniversary the United States celebrates the importance of the Vienna Declaration, reaffirms our commitment to the principles enshrined in it, and reflects on the challenges to the universal realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Our unyielding commitment to advancing human rights and fundamental freedoms is driven by the conviction that international peace, security, and prosperity are strengthened when human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected and protected.

Thank you.