The outcomes of the 25th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) underscored the importance of robust U.S. engagement at the Council, where the United States continues to work with a diverse range of countries from all regions to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership helped to keep the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights. The United States successfully led two resolutions at this session: one that renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and another focusing on accountability for human rights abuses and violations in Sri Lanka.
MULTILATERAL RESPONSES TO COUNTRY SITUATIONS
Sri Lanka: The resolution on Sri Lanka, led by the United States along with core sponsors Macedonia, Mauritius, Montenegro, and the United Kingdom, passed by a vote of 23 yes, 12 no, and 12 abstentions, with 41 total co-sponsors. For the first time, the resolution requests a comprehensive investigation, to be led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), into alleged violations and abuses of human rights and related crimes committed in Sri Lanka by both sides during the period covered by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) report (2002-2009). In addition, it requests that OHCHR monitor, assess, and report on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, including any relevant domestic processes dealing with reconciliation and accountability. This is the third resolution that the United States has led on Sri Lanka.
Iran: For the fourth year in a row, the HRC passed a resolution highlighting the human rights situation in Iran. The United States joined Macedonia, Moldova, Panama, and Sweden in leading the resolution, which renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Iran. Twenty-one countries voted in favor, with 9 against, and 16 abstaining. One country was not present for voting.
Syria: The HRC passed a resolution on Syria, which extends the mandate of the Syria Commission of Inquiry (COI) for another year. Sixty-one countries, including the United States, co-sponsored the resolution, which passed by a vote of 32 yes, 4 no, and 11 abstentions. In addition to extending the COI’s mandate, the resolution condemns in the strongest terms the widespread and systematic violence by Syrian authorities and government-affiliated militias, as well as human rights abuses and violations of international law by all parties including anti-government armed groups. It also highlights the regime’s detention of tens of thousands of Syrians, many of whom have been subjected to torture; cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and extrajudicial killings, and calls for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained persons, improvement in prison conditions, and access for independent monitors.
D.P.R.K.: The United States co-sponsored the resolution on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.) which passed by a vote of 30 yes, 6 no, and 11 abstentions. The European Union (EU) and Japan were the lead sponsors of the resolution, which focuses on the contents of the recent report by the UN’s Commission of Inquiry (COI), and condemns the D.P.R.K. for its ongoing human rights violations. It also seeks to promote implementation of several of the COI’s recommendations, including extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of one year. Finally, the resolution calls for the establishment of a field-based mechanism to continue the investigation and collection of testimony the COI initiated which would lay the groundwork for a possible accountability framework in the future.
Burma: The United States co-sponsored this EU-led resolution, which was adopted without a vote. The resolution calls for the renewal of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in order to maintain an institutional mechanism for international human rights monitoring in Burma. While the resolution gives Burma credit for recent improvements in many aspects of its human rights policy and protection, it also cites serious concerns about the treatment of minorities, especially Muslim minorities.
Ukraine: The United States and 41 other countries joined together in support of the Ukrainian government, condemning the use or threat of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. The statement called on Russia to ensure full and unimpeded access and protection for UN and OSCE monitors in order to provide a transparent and unbiased report on the human rights, economic, and security situation.
Venezuela: In a series of national statements, the United States called on Venezuela to end violence against protestors and release those detained for exercising their right to peaceful protest and free expression. We stressed the need for an authentically inclusive dialogue with third party mediation that could begin to address the Venezuelan people’s legitimate grievances and guarantee respect for democratic principles and human rights.
CROSS-CUTTING HUMAN RIGHTS PRIORITIES
Freedom of Expression: The U.S.-led resolution to renew the three-year mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression was adopted without a vote. Seventy-two countries joined the United States as co-sponsors.
Civil Society: The U.S. co-sponsored a resolution extending the three-year mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, and another resolution stressing the importance of promoting and protecting human rights in the context of peaceful protests. Both resolutions underscore the United States’ and the Council’s commitment to civil society at a time of increasing crackdowns on their independence.
Item 7: This Council session was once again tainted by five separate resolutions targeting Israel under the Council’s biased Agenda Item 7. The United States strongly opposed all five resolutions, though all five passed on votes.