As we mark the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action this year, the United States will continue to place its commitment to multilateral engagement and human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy. At the UN Human Rights Council’s (HRC) 52nd session (February 27 – April 4), the United States worked with allies and civil society partners to ensure the Council’s work and outcomes reflect and reinforce the universal values, aspirations, and norms that have underpinned the UN system for decades. Our engagement focused on ensuring greater emphasis to pressing human rights concerns and building collective action and expanding capacity to address them.
During this session, the United States advanced human rights priorities, particularly those shining a spotlight on human rights situations in Belarus, Burma, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), as well as on:
Renewing the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Ukraine: The United States worked with Ukraine and cross-regional partners to renew the mandate of the COI that was first created in March 2022 to investigate violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The COI has already provided critical, credible reporting, including finding that Russian authorities have committed war crimes such as the unlawful transfer and deportation of children. The United States was proud to co-sponsor the resolution to renew the COI’s mandate to help ensure the Commission can continue its work to analyze evidence and inform accountability efforts.
Renewing the mandate of the Commission of Human Rights in South Sudan: The United States is part of the core group for this resolution, and the Commission’s contributions to accountability and transitional justice are more important than ever, given ongoing serious human rights violations and the government’s two-year extension of its “transitional period” without achieving any concrete progress.
Renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the situation of human rights in Iran: The work of the SR is particularly important given the Iranian regime’s months of brutal acts of violence against peaceful protesters standing up for the rights of women and girls, as well as freedom of expression for the Iranian people.
Renewing the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the situation of human rights in Syria: The COI continues to accurately document widespread violations and abuses of human rights in Syria perpetrated by the Assad regime and other parties to the conflict. The consistent and credible reporting is critical to countering disinformation and advancing accountability for atrocities committed. The United States is part of the core group and co-sponsored this resolution.
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Nicaragua: We supported a two-year mandate renewal of the Group of Experts on Human Rights for Nicaragua and will continue to bolster international community efforts to hold the Ortega-Murillo regime accountable for its human rights abuses and repression of civil society.
The United States also co-sponsored resolutions on Technical Assistance for Haiti, cooperation with Georgia, Freedom of religion or belief, Freedom of opinion and expression (including online), Realization in all countries of Economic, Social, and Cultural rights, Promoting Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals, and Human rights and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, we co-sponsored resolutions that renewed the mandates for the special rapporteurs on human rights defenders, minority issues, human rights of migrants, sexual exploitation of children, contemporary forms of racism, torture, and the Independent Expert on Adequate Housing.
Agenda Item 7: The United States continues to oppose all action under the HRC’s Agenda Item 7, which unfairly singles out Israel. We voted against all resolutions that unjustifiably target Israel, including one under Agenda Item 2 on Accountability and Human Rights and three resolutions under Agenda Item 7.
Defending Civil Society: During this session, the United States stood united with members of civil society and defended their right to speak at the Council, irrespective of the topic. Human rights defenders and NGOs are critical to promoting and protecting human rights and we were dismayed to see multiple transnational repression attempts by certain states to silence their voices.
Joint Statements: In addition to leading a joint statement on behalf of the Freedom Online Coalition reiterating a shared commitment to promoting and protecting Internet freedom, the United States signed onto joint statements regarding International Women’s Day, Resonance of Thoughts and Values of Mahatma Gandhi in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Indigenous Human Rights Defenders, repression and the use of the death penalty in Iran, support for the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, women and girls in Afghanistan, SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) Group of Friends, Child Human Rights Defenders, Responsibility to Protect and the Role of Human Rights Defenders, Academic Freedom, countering disinformation, and Commemorating the International Day Against Racism, as well as the Human Rights situations in Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka. The United States also supported multiple joint statements condemning Russia’s war against Ukraine, including joint statements focused on accountability, the findings of the COI on Ukraine, the war’s impact on children, and Russian authorities arbitrarily detaining Ukraine’s civilians, including Ukrainian mayors.
Across resolutions, joint statements, and interactive dialogues, the United States advanced language to increase equity and inclusion, including regarding women and girls in all their diversity, internally displaced persons, LGBTQI+ persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, members of ethnic and religious minority groups, and members of other marginalized and vulnerable groups.
Side Events: The United States co-sponsored and participated in side events focused on accountability for international crimes and serious human rights violations in Belarus; political prisoners in Russia; Justice for Daesh Atrocities; several events on combatting antisemitism; Disability Support and Care Systems; Human Rights in the DPRK; Disability, Torture, and Recovery; countering disinformation; Role of Assisted Technology in the Promotion of Education; Gender-Based Violence against Women and LGBTQI+ Persons in Nicaragua; and Education in Afghanistan. The United States also co-sponsored multiple side events focused on Russia’s war against Ukraine and related human rights impacts and accountability efforts.