The United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC, carries out a difficult task: it is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. In other words, it speaks on behalf of those who have been silenced by their own governments.
The United States supports the UNHRC for one simple reason, said Secretary of State John Kerry: We believe in its mission and its possibilities.
“We know that at best this council can be a valuable means for reminding every nation of its commitments and obligations and holding countries accountable when they fail to meet international standards.”
Civil society is the UNHRC’s best ally, said Secretary Kerry. So it is especially troubling that people such as activists, journalists, community organizers, critical thinkers, all of whom reject extreme ideologies while showing people a way to express hopes and grievances peacefully—“so many people in so many places are facing grotesque restrictions on their freedoms and rights from their own governments, including in some cases their right to life.”
In Syria, civilians are caught between horrific attacks from violent extremists like ISIL and a brutal dictator who gasses his own people, starves them as a weapon of war, and barrages them with barrel bombs, among other crimes and atrocities. Tens of thousands of North Koreans live in inhuman conditions, controlled through starvation, torture, incarceration, or execution. And in separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, men, women, and children are being killed.
“They’re being tortured, they’re being raped and sexually assaulted, detained arbitrarily, abducted for ransom, forced into labor,” said Secretary Kerry.
“Together, we have to be the voice for those who are silenced by their leaders. We have to be a ray of light for those who spend their days locked away without cause, many times in anonymity, in dark and dank cells somewhere in the world. We have to be the source of hope for those who fear that their suffering may never end or never even be recognized. This is the kind of organization – this council – that the world desperately needs.”