The seventeenth session of the Human Rights Council came to an end in Geneva today. This is the sixth regular session that the United States has participated in since joining the Council in September 2009. U.S. engagement has reshaped the Council's agenda, leading to a number of new tools to address urgent human rights situations and focus international attention on some of the world’s most egregious human rights abusers. Key accomplishments at this session include:
The Council took bold, assertive action to highlight violence and human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world. This is the first UN resolution solely focused on LGBT persons. The United States co-sponsored and lobbied heavily to support this initiative by South Africa, which was joined by countries from every UN geographic region. The resolution will commission the first UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people around the world and will pave the way for sustained Council attention to LGBT issues in sessions to come.
DEEPENING ENGAGEMENT IN COUNTRY SITUATIONS AND ADDRESSING URGENT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS
Syria: The United States joined Canada and over fifty UN members to deliver a forceful joint statement addressing the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria, calling for an end to the on-going human rights violations committed by the Syrian authorities, and urging the Government of Syria to allow the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Office access to Syria to conduct their fact-finding mission. This statement further demonstrates the international community’s resolve to highlight the ongoing campaign of violence by the Syrian Government.
Yemen: The United States joined the Netherlands and 73 other countries in delivering a statement on the ongoing violence and human rights abuses in Yemen. The Council made a decision to hold an interactive dialogue on Yemen at its next session. The statement and decision mark the first HRC action on Yemen. We applaud the Government of Yemen for supporting both the statement and the decision and inviting OHCHR to visit the country to aid in its reporting.
Libya: After considering the report from the UN Commission of Inquiry detailing allegations of human rights violations in Libya, alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Qadhafi regime, the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry. The Commission will continue to provide important, credible, and independent information on the human rights violations and crimes committed by the Libyan authorities.
Cote d'Ivoire: The Council debated a mandated report by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Cote d'Ivoire, established in an emergency Council session in December. The Council authorized continued monitoring and reporting as well as technical assistance. It agreed to name an Independent Expert to follow up on the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry and assist the Government of Cote d'Ivoire to combat impunity. Acceptance of this sustained oversight is a strong indication of the Ivoirian Government's commitment to respect human rights and take steps toward reconciliation.
Iran: On June 17, the Human Right's Council appointed Ahmed Shaheed as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. The Special Rapporteur will serve as a voice for the millions of Iranians who have suffered egregious human rights violations and are not heard by their own government.
Other Country Specific Resolutions:
•Belarus: The Council adopted an EU-led resolution on the human rights situation in Belarus, highlighting the abuses committed since the December 2010 Presidential election in Belarus, and ongoing crackdowns against civil society and the democratic opposition in the country. This renewed UN scrutiny of human rights in Belarus for the first time since an earlier Commission on Human Rights mandate on Belarus was abolished in 2006.
•Somalia: The Council adopted a resolution acknowledging the constructive engagement of the Transitional Federal Government in the Universal Periodic Review process earlier this year. The resolution encouraged technical assistance from the international community for Somalia and renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert on Somalia for one year.
•Kyrgyzstan: The United States and Kyrgyzstan worked together on a new Council resolution to support the Government of Kyrgyzstan's efforts to address and reform current law enforcement practices and ensure fairness, security, and due process in the judicial proceedings arising out of last year’s violence. The resolution encourages further efforts to promote national reconciliation and invites states to continue to provide technical assistance.
BUSINESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
The United States worked with the Government of Norway to pass a resolution that welcomes the groundbreaking work of the UN Secretary General's Special Representative, Professor John Ruggie of Harvard University. Professor Ruggie has developed a set of far-reaching Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and built support for them among governments, corporations, and civil society stakeholders worldwide. The resolution creates a working group of five independent experts and establishes a forum on business and human rights to discuss trends and challenges in implementing the Guiding Principles. The forum will maintain the multi-stakeholder approach that was a critical component of Dr. Ruggie's work.
The United States worked with Sweden to develop a joint statement, supported by a cross-regional coalition of 40 countries, affirming Internet freedom. We appreciate the timely focus of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression on access to electronic communications and freedom of expression online. The dramatic events unfolding in North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond highlight the importance of new communications tools for political expression and the realization of democratic aspirations.
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The United States continues to join UN members to call attention to violence against women and girls around the world and improve international efforts to eliminate and prevent that violence. The United States strongly supported a Canadian-led resolution addressing Violence Against Women, took part in annual day discussion on addressing sexual violence against women in conflict, and responded to the report of Violence Against Women Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo on the United States.