Human Rights First Welcomes U.S. Support for Human Rights Defenders Resolution
Washington, D.C.—Today Human Rights First welcomed the support of the U.S. government for a resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council on the protection of human rights defenders working to promote economic, social, and cultural rights. The council adopted the Norwegian-led resolution on Thursday by a vote of 33-6, with 8 abstentions. The United States joined more than 60 states from all regions in sponsoring this resolution.
“U.S. support of this resolution is an important step in the recognition and protection of human rights defenders,” said Human Rights First’s Rebecca Sheff. “Human rights defenders whose work focuses on economic, social, and cultural rights often face tremendous risks and are subject to violations of their civil and political rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and freedom from torture and arbitrary arrest or detention.”
The resolution calls on all states to take all measures necessary to ensure the rights and safety of human rights defenders. It strongly condemns threats, violence, arbitrary detention, disappearance, and other retaliatory measures that hinder the work of defenders. It further calls on states to combat impunity and to enact legislative and policy frameworks to protect human rights defenders, in consultation with defenders, civil society, and relevant stakeholders.
“While this multilateral milestone is critical, the U.S. government can still do more in ensuring that its own embassies are consistently engaging productively with human rights defenders,” noted Sheff. “The State Department should intensify its efforts to implement the 2013 U.S. guidelines on support for human rights defenders, translate the guidelines into additional languages including Arabic, and post them prominently on embassies’ websites.”
The states that abstained from voting on this resolution included key U.S. military allies in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Human Rights First notes that these states, which engage in systematic violations of human rights, are among Washington’s most repressive allies.