The United States is pleased and proud of its reelection to the UN Human Rights Council earlier today. Since joining the Council in 2009, the United States has ardently worked to help the Council realize its full potential. Our efforts to reform the Council from within have resulted in historic and concrete actions against human rights violators around the world. While much work remains to be done at the Council, in particular ending its excessive and unbalanced focus on Israel, with U.S. leadership the Council has spoken up for those who are suffering major human rights violations and are living under the grip of the world’s cruelest regimes. The Council also has taken action to promote accountability for violations and expand human rights and fundamental freedoms worldwide. Today’s vote will allow us to further strengthen the Council and build on what we have already accomplished at the Council by working together with our international partners.
As we prepare for another three years of close collaboration with partners from all corners of the globe to address the many human rights challenges remaining before us, we reflect on the Council’s key accomplishments during our first term, including:
Robust Response to Country-Specific Situations:
Syria: The Human Rights Council has been an active, vocal body in condemning the atrocities in Syria, holding four special sessions and establishing an independent International Commission of Inquiry, as well as a Special Rapporteur to follow up on the work of the Commission of Inquiry once its mandate expires. The Council has adopted eight resolutions on Syria since 2011, all of which the United States co-sponsored, sharply and repeatedly criticizing and illuminating the conduct of the Syrian government.
Libya: Similarly, in 2011 the Council took assertive action to address the dire human rights situation in Libya, establishing a Commission of Inquiry mandated, among other things, to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya and to make recommendations on accountability measures. With the support of the United States and on the recommendation of the Council, the UN General Assembly took unprecedented action in March 2011 to suspend Libya’s membership rights on the Council helping to catalyze broader UN action to prevent the slaughter of civilians in Libya.
Iran: In 2011, the United States led the Council in adopting a resolution that re-instituted the mandate of a Special Rapporteur on Iran to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation. Today, the Special Rapporteur is speaking out on behalf of those Iranians who have suffered egregious human rights violations by the Iranian government.
Belarus: In 2012, the United States co-sponsored a resolution at the Council that established a Special Rapporteur to highlight human rights abuses in Belarus. In doing so, the Council re-instituted a mandate that the Council eliminated in 2006, when the United States was not a member.
Sri Lanka: In 2012, the United States led the Council in adopting a resolution on Sri Lanka, which sent a strong signal that Sri Lanka still needs to address outstanding issues of reconciliation and accountability.
Cote d’Ivoire: When the political and human rights environment in Cote d’Ivoire deteriorated in 2011, the Council acted quickly to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights abuses. The Council later created an Independent Expert on human rights in Cote d’Ivoire, with a mandate to follow up on the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and assist the Government of Cote d’Ivoire in combating impunity.
Burma: Since joining the Council in 2009, the United States supported the adoption of four resolutions addressing the human rights situation in Burma. The most recent resolution extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights for another year. In doing so, the Council took into account the many recent positive changes in Burma, including the Government of Burma’s stated commitment to democratization and the reconciliation process as well as the Government’s engagement with Aung San Suu Kyi and opposition parties.
Promoting Universal Human Rights:
Advancing the Rights of LGBT Persons: In June 2011 the Council adopted the first-ever UN resolution on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons. This resolution commissioned a groundbreaking UN report on the human rights abuses that LGBT persons face around the globe, and has opened a broader international discussion on how to best promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons. As a co-sponsor of this resolution, the United States demonstrated its commitment to an active role in ensuring fair treatment and equality for all people.
Promoting Freedom of Assembly and Association: Since 2010, the United States has led a cross-regional core group of countries in successfully presenting two landmark resolutions on the protection and promotion of freedom of assembly and association. The first resolution created the first new special rapporteur focused on fundamental freedoms in 17 years, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. The second resolution underscores the important role that civil society plays in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Highlighting Internet Freedom: In July 2012, the United States co-sponsored a landmark resolution, that underscores that all individuals are entitled to the same human rights and fundamental freedoms online as they are offline, including the freedom of expression, and that all governments must protect those rights regardless of the medium.
Underscoring the Right to Nationality: In 2012 the United States successfully introduced a landmark resolution addressing 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.
Reinforcing Freedom of Expression in the Context of Religious Intolerance: The United States worked with a wide range of partners, including the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to secure adoption in 2011 of the “Combating Discrimination and Violence” resolution, also known as resolution 16/18, which calls on states to take a range of positive actions to combat discrimination, violence, and intolerance on the basis of religion or belief without violating the freedom of expression. This resolution marked a sea change in the global dialogue on countering offensive and hateful speech based upon religion or belief.