The 20th Session of the Human Rights Council underscored the broadening scope and efficacy of the Council, while highlighting the instrumental role of United States engagement with a diverse range of countries from all regions of the world to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership kept the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights in Syria, and the passing of a resolution on the equal right to nationality for women and children. With our strong support, the Council passed a historic resolution on Internet freedom, and created of special rapporteurs on Belarus and Eritrea. Though much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, U.S. engagement since joining the Human Rights Council has made it a more effective and credible multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights.
MULTILATERAL RESPONSES TO COUNTRY SITUATIONS & HUMAN RIGHTS PRIORITITES
Belarus: The Council took a first step last year on the human rights situation in Belarus by passing a resolution that called for a written report on Belarus, but the continued lack of cooperation by Belarus with HRC mechanisms and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the further drastic degradation of the human rights situation highlighted the need to take more robust action. After close collaboration between the United States and the European Union and intense lobbying before and during this session, the HRC voted to create the special rapporteur on Belarus, re-creating a mandate that was eliminated in 2006.
Eritrea: Nigeria, Djibouti and Somalia led the Council to create a special rapporteur on Eritrea. This independent human rights expert will focus urgent attention on a critical human rights situation. Eritreans remain victimized by one of the world’s most repressive governments. They suffer arbitrary and indefinite detention; inhumane conditions of confinement; torture; restrictions on freedom of speech, movement, and belief; and indefinite forced labor in national service. The United States co-sponsored this important resolution along with a cross-regional group of supporters. This is the first time the HRC has unanimously created a special rapporteur that was actively opposed by the country in question, showing both the increased credibility of the Council, the leadership o the African Group, and the international community’s concern over human rights violations in Eritrea.
Syria: The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria provided an oral report at this session, including its initial findings from an investigation of the May 25 Houla massacre. The United States, with the support of cross-regional partners, including Turkey, presented a resolution that maintained the focus on Syria and underscored the need to continue the Commission of Inquiry’s work to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law as the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate.
Israel: While the biased Israel-specific agenda item unfortunately still exists, we are pleased that there were no resolutions tabled under this item during this session. However, the HRC President did name the members of the Fact Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, created in March. As reflected by our vote against this measure at the March session, the United States strongly opposed the creation of the Fact Finding Mission.
Internet Freedom: The United States was proud to work closely with the main sponsor, Sweden, and over 80 co-sponsors, including Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, and Tunisia, to help unanimously pass a landmark resolution that underscores that all individuals are entitled to the same human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression, online as they are offline, and that all governments must protect those rights regardless of the medium. We will continue to work with our partners to address challenges to online freedom, and to ensure that human rights are protected in the public square of the 21st century.
The Right to a Nationality: This resolution, which the United States led with Botswana, Colombia, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey, and Slovakia, aimed to address an important but under-recognized human right, the right to a nationality, with a specific focus on women and children. The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire and retain nationality and confer it on their children, reduces the likelihood that women and children will become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm. This is the first time that the Human Rights Council has addressed the issue of discriminatory nationality laws targeting women. In total there were 49 co-sponsors supporting the resolution, with representation from every geographical region. This resolution supports the Secretary’s initiative to promote women’s equal right to nationality, which emphasizes that women’s rights are human rights.