Item 5 General Debate
Statement of the United States of America
As delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
United Nations Human Rights Council 51st Session
Thank you, Mr. President.
The conditions facing human rights defenders around the world are dire. They dare to question repressive authorities about unjust wars or military coups, they have the temerity to seek respect for the human rights of members of their native communities, and they show the courage to defend everyone’s right to practice the religion or belief of their choice. Far too many of these human rights defenders and others are threatened, imprisoned, and silenced for their actions.
We must do more to safeguard the people who protect and advance our human rights. We must, in particular, ensure that those who speak truth to power at the United Nations, including in this very room, are protected from reprisals. For this reason, we vigorously support the efforts of the Council, its President, and OHCHR to respond swiftly to reprisals in any form.
For the same reason, we strongly support the vital work of the special procedures mandate holders. Unpaid by the UN, working on their own time, and often operating under difficult conditions, these experts strive to ensure that each of our governments, as well as the UN as a whole, remains accountable to its commitments and its people. We are grateful for their service.
This support and transparency means that more experts speak about my country than any other. And while we may not always agree with every expert’s conclusions, we respect the process and we value their efforts. It is essential to preserve the system that allows human rights defenders to continue speaking out independently without fear of censure.
I thank you.