During the 31st regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, United States delegates raised concerns regarding human rights in Syria, Iran, Burundi, South Sudan, North Korea, and China. They also highlighted abuses in several other countries.
The delegates congratulated the government of Burma for taking key steps in the direction of democracy, but noted concern about continued military influence over the parliament and key ministries, abuses and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and continued legal restrictions on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association.
The United States led a joint statement on freedom of expression and peaceful transitions within democracies. Sixty-six countries supported the statement welcoming actions taken by states undergoing transitions in democratically elected leaders to protect freedom of expression. The United States also supported important resolutions on the need for the protection of human rights defenders and the freedom to peacefully protest. The Council defeated an unprecedented number of hostile amendments, 31, which aimed to weaken the resolution on human rights defenders.
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Theodore Allegra highlighted abuses in Latin America: “The Venezuelan government uses detentions to suppress and punish government critics, including the political opposition, civil society, and independent media,” he said. “We call for the release of political prisoners and justice for those tortured and mistreated in detention.”
He also called on Cuba to “end the practice of arbitrary short term detention, respect freedoms of expression and assembly and release all political prisoners.”
Regarding Russia, Mr. Allegra said the U.S. remains concerned about the occupation of Crimea and Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine.
“Domestically, the Russian government increasingly restricts freedom of expression, while creating a climate of impunity for harassment and attacks against activists, journalists, and the political opposition.”
The promotion of human rights remains a pillar of U.S. foreign policy. “The fight for greater freedom, greater respect, greater dignity is a unifying narrative of our humanity in all its diversity,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said recently. “That is why we are very proud to join this Council in upholding our common responsibility to this universal pursuit.”
The United Nations Human Rights Council celebrated its 10th anniversary this month. “The United States’ commitment to the mandate and mission of the Council runs deep into our nation’s history,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an address to the High-Level segment. “It is engraved into our nation’s founding values and etched into the standards we strive to hold ourselves to every day.”