Explanation of Vote on a Third Committee Resolution on Human Rights and Terrorism

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
November 20, 2018


The United States is pleased to join consensus on this resolution. We appreciate the efforts of the co-facilitators. We support the broad principles underlying this text: specifically the desire to craft a document that balances a discussion of the ways in which terrorist activity threatens the freedoms and livelihoods of people around the world with a recognition that states forfeit this worthy battle if, in the fight against terrorism, they curtail the very freedoms they are purportedly acting to preserve. We appreciate as well the efforts of the sponsors to combine two previously disparate texts in order to bring these discussions under a single rubric. We associate ourselves with the concerns expressed by Canada on key human rights provisions that would have helped to achieve a text that protected fundamental freedoms.

That said, we were forced to call for a vote on OP14 for the reasons we already stated and, that vote having failed, we must disassociate from OP14. We wish to note other concerns as well. The fact that states hold the primary responsibility under international law to protect and promote human rights in the context of counterterrorism must continue to be the guiding principle of how the international community addresses this topic. It is essential that States respect their human rights obligations and commitments, including with regard to freedom of opinion and expression, while addressing the scourge of terrorism. The inclusion of language in this resolution, in particular in operative paragraph 30, that “calls upon” states to take action inconsistent not only with our Constitution, but also our understanding of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, runs counter to this fundamental principle. As a result we must disassociate from OP30.

Finally, I must note that on both the US Freedom of Association and Assembly resolution as well as the current resolution there have been interesting comments in this room regarding the balance between the roles and responsibilities of states, the roles and responsibilities of individuals and how these reflect on our understanding of what human rights mean. While my Russian colleague notes that the Third Committee is not a committee that is an expert on terrorism, this is a committee that does have expertise on human rights. Therefore, we feel it is important that the resolutions that are taken up, tabled and voted on as resolutions, reflect that this is the primary body here in New York that does addresses concerns of human rights. Therefore when there is a question of balance, the balance should be for human rights.