FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States sees the promotion and protection of human rights as a cornerstone of United Nations responsibility and action. While the annual State Department human rights reports detail our observations on human rights worldwide, we appreciate the opportunity to highlight in the Third Committee situations of particular concern, some of which are the subject of individual resolutions in the Third Committee during this General Assembly.
A year ago, when the Third Committee considered this important agenda item, we were compelled to lead with the horrific human rights violations occurring in Syria. Tragically, the situation has since worsened; with more than 30,000 people killed. The brutal, persistent attacks of the Syrian regime against its own people are unconscionable. Government forces have escalated their violence, perpetrating outrageous targeted killings of civilians and attacks against medical facilities, resorting to collective punishment, employing mortars, aerial bombs, and other forms of indiscriminate artillery against civilians. Bashar al-Asad and those who still stand by him are now responsible for the flight of many hundreds of thousands of civilians.
The government of Iran’s continued repression of its people also merits the strongest condemnation. At a time when people across the Middle East and globally are standing up for their rights, Iran must uphold its international obligations and respect its own laws to protect the rights of all citizens, including the right to religious freedom and free expression. Iran must release all persons jailed for their religious or political beliefs, including more than 100 Baha’is, plus the hundreds of students, lawyers, activists and journalists who have been arbitrarily detained and denied universal human rights. The government should immediately release opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard.
We call upon the new leadership in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respect human rights. This includes immediately dismantling political prison camps, where it reportedly holds between 130,000 and 200,000 individuals, including children, and ending punishments for returned North Korean asylum seekers and their families. The DPRK controls nearly all aspects of its citizens’ lives, subjects citizens to forced labor, and denies citizens the freedoms of expression, assembly, association, religion and movement. The United States supports the continued efforts of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and urges the DPRK to grant him access.
The situation in Sudan also continues to warrant our close attention. Fifteen months ago, the United States commended the Sudanese government for being the first country to recognize newly independent South Sudan, while citing Sudan’s chronic human rights violations. Regrettably, more than a year later, Sudan continues to launch attacks and aerial bombardments on civilians in Darfur, arming proxy militias, sustaining a climate of impunity for abuses, and denying political freedoms. In the Two Areas of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile, Sudan continues widespread and systematic bombardment of civilians and denial of access for humanitarian and food assistance, causing displacement and creating a worsening humanitarian crisis. Government forces continue to commit extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and other gross human rights violations throughout the country, including against journalists. The United States and many other countries, this fall supported a strengthening of the Human Rights Council mandate for the Independent Expert on Sudan so that he could have access to all areas of the country and assess and report on the human rights situation.
We also strongly supported the establishment in July of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus. Since the flawed 2010 Presidential elections, the Belarusian government has continued to curtail significantly the freedoms of association, assembly and expression, and the right to a fair trial. The United States is deeply concerned about the suppression of fundamental freedoms and human rights, as well as widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment. We remain deeply concerned by the government’s crackdown against human rights activists, independent journalists and media, and civil society.
We similarly were strong supporters of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, whom we expect to play an important role documenting and highlighting Eritrea’s severe curtailment of fundamental freedoms, which has contributed to large numbers of people fleeing the country. The government has recently refused to cooperate with the newly named Special Rapporteur, and Eritrea still has not accounted for those who have disappeared after arrest.
Mr. President, we are further compelled to raise another perennial violator of the rights to peaceful assembly and association, Cuba. Cuba’s security forces intimidate, beat and imprison Cuban citizens for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. The government denies the people access to information. We call for the immediate release of Alan Gross, imprisoned for nearly three years for simply helping improve internet connectivity and facilitate the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people.
With regard to China, we reiterate our longstanding concern about continued impediments to the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, including limitations on civil society and access to the Internet. We are concerned by the government’s efforts to silence dissent through arrests, convictions, forced disappearances, and extralegal detentions; persecution of human rights lawyers; harassment of journalists; and intimidation of activists’ families; and we urge the Chinese government to end limits on religious freedom and the policies that undermine the linguistic, religious, and cultural traditions of its minorities.
Of course, this year we have also learned that change is possible. Things can improve. We would like to recognize that in the last 18 months, the government of Burma has taken a number of significant steps signaling the start of a noteworthy reform process. There remain, however, serious human rights challenges to address across the country. The events of recent weeks and earlier in the summer in Rakhine state have been profoundly distressing and remind us all once again of the importance of guaranteeing every person human rights protections in both law and fact. We remain committed to supporting the reform process in Burma.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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