Remarks at an Interactive Dialogue with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

Ambassador Kelley Currie
U.S. Representative for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 16, 2017


The United States thanks High Commissioner Zeid for his robust and independent leadership as he seeks to address urgent human rights challenges around the world.

At the September Human Rights Council session, the High Commissioner addressed the need for reform of the Council, specifically stressing that future Council members have “a particular duty to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights and to fully cooperate with the Council.”

We thank the High Commissioner for highlighting this fact, and stress that States involved in egregious human rights violations have no place at the Human Rights Council. We share his concern about the continued membership of Burundi and Venezuela in that body, in light of their domestic situation and their lack of cooperation with the special procedures of the HRC. In that vein we regret today’s election of the DRC on a closed slate. We call on Member States to join us in working to achieve meaningful reform of the HRC during this General Assembly to help restore the Council’s credibility.

We also welcome the Office of the High Commissioner’s continued leadership in combatting violence and discrimination against vulnerable persons, through efforts like the Free and Equal campaign, which works to build tolerance for people, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The United States joins OHCHR in condemning the continued criminalization of same-sex conduct in many countries, especially the use of the death penalty in several countries. This is a moral outrage.

We also thank the High Commissioner for continuing to be a voice for those who cannot speak out. In this regard, we note the OHCHR’s important work in Burma and Syria.

At the September session, High Commissioner Zeid spoke about reprisals against civil society actors around the world, including those that interact with the UN. Participation of civil society is a critical component for addressing ongoing human rights concerns within the UN. Member states must ensure the ability of civil society to engage with the UN without fear of retaliation. UN bodies, mechanisms, and representatives also share a responsibility to expose and address reprisals effectively.

Like our Latvian colleagues, we want to know what you think should be done to help ensure that the worst human rights violators are no longer able to serve as members of the Council. We are also interested in ensuring that reprisals against civil society are adequately addressed.