Concluding our first year back on the Human Rights Council, the United States leveraged its leadership position – working with allies, partners, and civil society – to have the Council reflect and reinforce the universal values, aspirations, and norms that have underpinned the UN system since its founding over 75 years ago. At the 51st session of the HRC, the United States defended, protected, and advanced respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This session also marked the first time the Human Rights Council has ever considered a resolution or decision on the domestic human rights situation in a country that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, let alone two permanent Security Council members. Our statements and positions underscored the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to promoting the universality of human rights, including by addressing discrimination, inequity, and inequality in all its forms.
This session, the United States advanced human rights priorities, including:
Establishing Independent Review of the Deteriorating Human Rights Situation in Russia: The United States cosponsored a resolution, led by 26 EU member states and cosponsored by over 40 countries, to create a Special Rapporteur on Russia’s domestic human rights situation. The Russian government’s domestic repression creates a dire human rights situation for everyone in Russia and facilitates disinformation that enables Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The resolution expresses grave concern regarding the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia – including severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly – and establishes a Special Rapporteur to ensure independent review.
Calling for HRC Debate on Xinjiang: The United States and over 35 cosponsors tabled a decision to discuss the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) assessment of the human rights situation in Xinjiang at HRC 52 in March 2023. This is the first time since the Council’s founding that a member pursued formal action to address the human rights situation in the PRC. The decision was defeated by a narrow margin but underscored concerns about the serious human rights concerns raised in the OHCHR’s recent independent assessment. This decision’s defeat is a loss for the millions of victims from Xinjiang whose experiences deserve a discussion by the Council. Despite this, we will continue our efforts to address the human rights situation in Xinjiang as well as other human rights issues in the PRC.
Strengthening the Mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan: The United States cosponsored this resolution and collaborated with EU member states and other likeminded partners to renew and strengthen the capacity of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in Afghanistan, to include documentation, preservation, and reporting of abuses, particularly affecting women, girls, and minorities.
Supporting the International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia: The United States cosponsored the resolution to ensure continued Council attention on the human rights situation in Ethiopia and to renew the mandate of the international commission of human rights experts on Ethiopia created last year. We continue to press the Government of Ethiopia to cooperate with this commission and allow its members unhindered access to conduct their work. Any lasting solution to the conflict must involve comprehensive and inclusive transitional justice for victims and accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses and violations.
Promoting Reconciliation and Addressing Corruption and Impunity in Sri Lanka: As a member of the core group, the United States cosponsored the resolution for continued Council engagement with the Government of Sri Lanka during this time of economic crisis, including supporting the need for accountability for past abuses and those committed during the recent political turmoil as well as monitoring and reporting on the situation in the country. The human rights of all Sri Lankans must be upheld. Strengthening protection and respect of human rights goes hand-in-hand with political and economic reform.
Continuing to Shine Light on Ongoing Violations and Abuses in Syria: As a member of the core group, the United States joined the Council in once again calling international attention to the ongoing abuses and violations in Syria, primarily those committed by the Assad regime. The Council called on the regime to release all of those arbitrarily detained; end torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and provide answers for the missing. We welcome UN Secretary General Guterres’s August 30 report on missing persons in Syria and are committed to working with partners to seek justice and address the issue of the missing.
Renewing the Mandate of the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela: The United States cosponsored the resolution to renew the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, which plays a vital role in the international community’s efforts to hold the Maduro regime accountable for human rights abuses in Venezuela.
Indigenous Issues: The United States co-sponsored two resolutions on the rights of indigenous peoples. The first resolution renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous Peoples and a second resolution outlined substantive considerations on human rights and Indigenous Peoples.
Contemporary Forms of Slavery: The United States cosponsored the resolution to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences.
Advancing Racial Equity and Justice and Combating Antisemitism: The United States delivered national statements supporting the work of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent and the International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement, as well as a statement reiterating our steadfast commitment to countering racial discrimination and injustice, wherever it occurs. We also signed onto a joint statement led by Austria, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic on combating antisemitism and countering online hate speech.
Cosponsored Resolutions: The United States cosponsored 23 resolutions, including the resolutions on Arbitrary Detention, Cyberbullying, World Programme for Human Rights Education, Physical and Mental Health, Older Persons, Universal Periodic Review, Youth and Human Rights, National Human Rights Institutions, Local Government and Human Rights, Neurotechnology, Promoting International Cooperations to Support National Mechanisms, the Role of Good Governance in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Transitional Justice, and the Role of Prevention in the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, as well as the human rights situations in Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Russia, and Venezuela.
Joint Statements: The United States signed onto joint statements regarding several human rights situations, including a statement on Crimea which condemned Russia’s continued occupation and the unjustified full-scale war against Ukraine, a statement expressing deep concern about the rising levels of violence in Haiti, a statement condemning the violent protests in Iran and calling for an end to the discrimination against women, a statement calling attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Nicaragua; and a statement calling for independent and impartial monitoring and reporting on the situation in Yemen. The United States also joined statements on the Responsibility to Protect; Special Procedures, including promotion of Standing Invitations to all Special Procedures, the Elimination of Sexual Harassment, Antisemitism; Russia’s Filtration Operations and Forced Deportations of Ukrainian Civilians; and Technology and Peace.
- The United States co-hosted, along with Canada, Czechia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom, a side event on Tibet entitled “Human Rights Implications of the Dalai Lama’s Succession.” The speakers emphasized U.S. support for members of the Tibetan community’s religious freedom and called out PRC authorities for their repression against the Tibetan community. The event served to reinforce U.S. government support for the ability of the Tibetan community to choose their own religious leader and to shed a light on broader PRC human rights concerns.
- The United States also participated in side events focused on women’s rights in Afghanistan, accountability for violations in Ukraine, human rights violations and militarization in Crimea, transnational repression, and environmental human rights defenders.
Across resolutions, national and joint statements, side events, and interactive dialogues, the United States advanced efforts to increase equity and inclusion, including regarding women and girls in all their diversity, internally displaced persons, LGBTQI+ persons, persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, members of ethnic and religious minority groups, and members of other marginalized and vulnerable groups.