U.S. Under Secretary of State
for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights
19th Session of the Human Rights Council
March 2, 2012
When the United States joined the UN Human Rights Council two years ago, we set forth four values that would guide our work in this body: universality, dialogue, principle, and truth. We knew then, as we know now, that the honest dialogue and dedicated effort of this Council will help all of our nations on the path to international peace and security.
In the two years since, we have stayed true to those values. But our global challenges remain—among them, threats to freedoms of assembly, association, expression and religion and to vulnerable populations. As we seek a second term on the Council, the United States stands ready to build on the Council’s successes to pursue solutions to these pressing challenges. This session provides several opportunities to do so.
Last week in Tunisia, we partnered with the Friends of Syria in a unified commitment to help end the suffering of the Syrian people. We joined Council members this week to condemn the Asad regime’s ongoing brutal crackdown.
We must extend the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry launched by the Council, which has effectively performed its intensely difficult mandate with great commitment, so that it can continue to document the atrocities being committed and lay the groundwork for accountability.
Recent efforts on Syria are not the first time the Council has provided an important platform for action. Last year, this Council created a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Iran. Special Rapporteur Shaheed has conducted his work in a spirit of openness and dialogue. His important work must continue, and I encourage the Council to continue his mandate.
Tomorrow, Iranians will go to the polls for the first time since the 2009 disputed election—a moment when tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to demand their civil rights. Since then, the regime’s repression and persecution of all who stand up for their universal human rights has only intensified. The United States stands with religious and political leaders around the world in condemning the conviction of Youcef Nadarkhani’s and calling for his immediate release.
In Burma, the government has taken substantial and serious steps to improve the human rights situation for its citizens. We must continue to support this progress by extending the mandate of the special rapporteur. We commend the government for its recent efforts and encourage it to continue discussions with ethnic minority groups—armed or otherwise—on the path to national reconciliation.
The United States will also support renewal of the mandate of the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We share the Republic of Korea’s deep concerns regarding the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers from the DPRK in third countries.
We know from experience that there can be no lasting peace without reconciliation and accountability, but the United States is concerned that, in Sri Lanka, time is slipping away. The international community has waited nearly three years for action, and while we welcome the release of the LLRC report, the recommendations of the report should be implemented. We have engaged Sri Lanka bilaterally on these issues since the conflict ended in 2009, and stand ready to continue to work with them. Action now in this Council will sow the seeds of lasting peace on the ground.
The United States has worked through this Council to assist countries in transition with their human rights challenges. We have supported human rights protection and promotion in Kyrgyzstan, Guinea, Haiti and Cote d’ Ívoire, among others. In our UPR presentation, we addressed our own incomplete journey toward universal human rights, and we admire those countries that speak about their shortcomings as well as their strengths. We stand ready to help countries ready to address their human rights challenges, and during this session we hope to reach agreement to provide additional assistance to Yemen and Libya. With the support of this Council, these countries can consolidate democracy and become new beacons of leadership on human rights.
The United States has also worked through this Council to address significant cross-cutting issues that affect all of us, including combating discrimination on the basis of religion or belief. We were pleased to host the first meeting that seeks to implement Human Rights Council resolution 16/18, and we look forward to adopting a resolution this session that recognizes the important progress we have made.
Resolution 16/18 has proven that this Council can discuss and act upon difficult issues where consensus seems impossible. We also look forward to the upcoming discussion on the human rights of LGBT persons, underscoring that being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender does not make you less human.
As States increase pressure on rights and freedoms online, the United States must reiterate that the universal freedoms of expression, assembly and association are as applicable on the Internet and mobile technologies as they are to traditional modes of expression. We are concerned that some States are using new technologies to block content and suppress political dissent, and we encourage States to fulfill their human rights commitments and obligations in the context of new technologies.
The Council has done a great deal to focus on pressing human rights situations but there are still challenges to address. The United States was disappointed that the Human Rights Council review process did not address the unfair singling out of one country for a permanent agenda item. The Council will improve its credibility when it eliminates Item 7 and addresses all states under a common rubric.
Lastly, the United States remains gravely concerned about recent violence and continuing tensions in Tibetan areas of China. We call on all governments including China to respect the fundamental freedoms of religion and expression of all of its citizens including members of ethnic minorities.
Human rights have universal application. All governments, including mine, must respect the human rights of individuals, protect the ability of individuals to exercise their rights, and create mechanisms for transparent and accountable governance. As we participate in this session and seek a second term on the Human Rights Council, the United States will continue to bridge differences and build consensus with all members. We believe the Council continues to make a significant impact on the world, and we look forward to being a part of its ongoing progress.
Syria will be a top priority at the upcoming session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, says Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. representative to the council.
The 19th regular session of the council is set to be held February 27– March 23.
“I think there’s an overwhelming consensus that the Assad regime must go; the violence has to stop,” Donahoe said at a press conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva February 22.
“Assad is being more and more isolated. Unfortunately, it’s not yet universal. The condemnation isn’t quite to that point yet, but it’s moving in that direction,” Donahoe said. She noted that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be attending the February 24 Friends of Syria meeting in Tunis with other world leaders to find ways to deliver humanitarian relief to the most threatened areas in Syria and look for other ways to pressure Assad to leave and end the violence.
The recent deaths of journalists in the Syrian conflict, Donahoe said, underscored the value of free media. “Without a free media, human rights defenders and activists cannot get their messages out,” she said. “The international community is not able to support the work or convey support for anyone in a closed society if we don’t get their messages.”
Marie Colvin, an American journalist, and French photographer Remi Ochlik died when a shell hit their makeshift media center February 22 in the Syrian city of Homs.
Regarding Sri Lanka, Donahoe said the United States firmly believes a Human Rights Council resolution is warranted that would call for real reconciliation based on a truthful accounting of the government’s involvement in the large-scale civilian casualties that took place during the years-long civil war that finally ended in 2009.
“We are working to convince the Sri Lankan government that there has to be greater evidence of serious implementation of the recommendations in their own domestic report and greater accountability in order to satisfy the victims and the various communities that feel like they have not yet been heard,” Donahoe said.
In her comments on Iran, Donahoe said the council’s landmark resolution last March to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran will most probably be renewed.
“We hope to be able to increase pressure on the Iranian regime through either increased numbers or other potential language in the resolution to allow the special rapporteur to enter Iran,” she said. “Whether that happens or not, we think there’s real value in continuing this mandate because it shows the people inside Iran that the international community is paying attention and that the Iranian narrative about how they treat their people is not fooling anyone.”
(Jan. 23) - Joint statement by U.S. Department of State Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Department of the Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Iran sanctions:
We welcome today’s decision by the European Union to ban imports of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products, freeze the assets of the Iranian central bank, and take additional action against Iran’s energy, financial, and transport sectors.
The measures agreed to today by the EU Foreign Affairs Council are another strong step in the international effort to dramatically increase the pressure on Iran. They are consistent with steps the U.S. previously has taken and with new U.S. sanctions on Iran that the President signed into law on December 31. These new U.S. sanctions intensify the ongoing pressure on Iran and strengthen the impact of existing measures by targeting transactions with the Central Bank of Iran and by providing strong incentives to reduce Iran’s ability to earn revenue from its oil exports. Taken in combination with the many other sanctions on Iran that continue to be implemented by the United States and the international community, this new, concerted pressure will sharpen the choice for Iran’s leaders and increase their cost of defiance of basic international obligations.
The United States and our international partners are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is why we have pursued a dual-track policy that puts pressure on Iran to engage seriously in discussions with the international community on its nuclear program. To date, Iran has failed to take advantage of the offer of engagement described in EU High Representative Ashton’s October 2011 letter. Instead, Iran has refused to address the international community’s serious and well-founded concerns about its nuclear program. These concerns have only been heightened by Iran’s inability to explain how its nuclear program is, as it claims, exclusively peaceful in nature or to provide any credible response to the IAEA’s November 2011 report that detailed the potential military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
Today, the UN Security Council met to discuss steps forward on existing Iran sanctions. Ambassador Susan Rice said, “…sanctions are only a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Iran enters into full compliance with all its international nuclear obligations and takes the steps necessary to resolve outstanding questions. In the face of Iran’s deception and intransigence, the international community must speak with one voice, making clear that Iranian actions jeopardize international peace and security and will only further isolate the regime.
President Obama has been unequivocal with respect to our policy toward the Iranian nuclear program. As he has said, “There should be no doubt, the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” Iran’s illicit nuclear activity – and the threat it poses to regional stability and the rules underpinning the nuclear non-proliferation regime – is one of the greatest global challenges we face.” Full Text
A mild-mannered 64-year-old Japanese career diplomat, Yukio Amano managed to spark a wide range of emotions in power centers around the globe: warm smiles in Washington, Paris and London, a torrent of vitriol in Tehran, and ruffled feathers in Moscow and Beijing. That’s because, barely a year into his new job as Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Amano turned up the heat on Iran with a report for the first time giving his U.N. body’s imprimatur to the accusation that Iran may have done research work on nuclear weapons.That report has prompted Western powers to ratchet up sanctions, although Russia, China and other skeptics have not followed suit. And as tension rises, Amano could find himself at the center of the storm in 2012. (Source: Time.com)
Please visit the United States Virtual Embassy Tehran. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton describes this as “a platform for us to communicate with each other—about the United States, about our policies, our culture, and the American people.” http://iran.usembassy.gov/
Iran has said that it seeks nuclear power solely for peaceful purposes. However, the Director General’s report and today’s action by the IAEA Board of Governors underscore that the international community does not find Iran’s claims credible. The P5+1 countries have affirmed Iran’s right to a peaceful nuclear program but make clear that with that right comes responsibilities – responsibilities Iran has yet to fulfill.”
"Iran has the choice to remain isolated outside the norms of the international community, or to take a new path that would bring Iran back into the community of nations as a member in good standing with its obligations. Full transparency and cooperation with the IAEA would be a solid first step. We urge Iran to take that step without delay."