The 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) underscored the importance of U.S. leadership to keep the HRC at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights. In this session, the United States ran an important consensus resolution on Freedom of Expression and the Empowerment of Women. As a member of the Council, the United States’ mission remains to highlight key human rights issues while vigorously opposing efforts to shield human rights violators.
MULTILATERAL RESPONSES TO COUNTRY SITUATIONS
Syria: The Council addressed the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria by holding an Urgent Debate on the massacres in al-Qusayr and an Interactive Dialogue with the independent international Commission of Inquiry. At this session, the United States co-sponsored two resolutions on Syria, the first condemning the regime’s attack on al-Qusayr and calling for humanitarian access and accountability for the perpetrators of atrocities. The second resolution, on the continued widespread and systematic human rights violations committed by the Assad regime, condemning foreign combatants, particularly Hizbollah, noting concern about the reports of abuses committed by anti-government armed groups, and stressing access for the Commission of Inquiry.
Belarus: The Special Rapporteur on human rights in Belarus, Miklos Haraszti, presented his first report to the Council this session, addressing the deeply disturbing human rights situation in Belarus. Following a global lobbying effort by the United States and our partners, the Council extended the year-old mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year.
Eritrea: The Council also extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea for another year, maintaining the focus on a wide range of human rights violations by the Government of Eritrea against its people. The Special Rapporteur position was created last year and the mandate holder, Sheila Keetharuth, presented her first report to the Council during the current session.
Egypt NGO statement: The United States joined with Germany and Norway to condemn the conviction of foreign and Egyptian NGO workers earlier this month. The statement also expressed concern over proposed Egyptian legislation that would shrink the space for civil society in Egypt and limit the ability of NGOs to receive funds from outside the country.
CROSS-CUTTING HUMAN RIGHTS PRIORITIES
Freedom of Expression: The United States, along with Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Montenegro, Qatar, Romania, Sierra Leone, and the United Kingdom, led a resolution entitled “The Role of Freedom of Expression in Women’s Empowerment,” which was adopted by consensus with more than 70 co-sponsors. The resolution affirms the fundamental role freedom of opinion and expression plays in the ability of women to participate fully in society at large, in particular in the realms of economic and political participation.
Women’s Human Rights: The 23rd Human Rights Council session emphasized protecting the rights of women and girls throughout the world. In addition to our Freedom of Expression resolution, the United States co-sponsored a resolution denouncing trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation, forced labor, and illegal removal of organs, among other abuses. The United States also co-sponsored a key resolution on protecting women from discrimination, which renewed for three years the mandate of the Working Group on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.
Additionally, the United States joined 46 other states in co-sponsoring a resolution on eliminating all forms of violence against women, focusing on rape and sexual violence. The resolution condemned all forms of violence against women and renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.