Counselor for Economic and Social Affairs
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 19, 2020
Thank you, Madam Lawlor, for bringing attention to the plight of human rights defenders, calling for their protection, and an end to impunity for attacks against them.
We strongly condemn such attacks. Countries must stand against the harassment, arbitrary arrest, interrogation, imprisonment, torture, and killing of human rights defenders.
As some countries use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to restrict human rights and fundamental freedoms, what can the international community do to foster resiliency for human rights defenders?
Iran has jailed hundreds of political prisoners, such as human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, whose 20-year-old daughter was arrested to pressure her mother to end a hunger strike. We urge Iran to release those jailed for defending human rights and end targeted assassinations by Iran-backed militias in Iraq, with 16 killings reported since October 2019.
We are concerned by China’s systematic persecution and imprisonment of human rights defenders, including those from Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong. We call on the Government to immediately release Ilham Tohti, and call attention to the situation of Hong Kong activists such as Joshua Wong, who was arrested under the National Security Law for expressing his political views.
In Zimbabwe, the government continues to intimidate, harass, abduct, and attack human rights defenders. Opposition leader Job Sikhala, parliamentarian Joana Mamombe and activists Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova face prosecution for constitutionally protected speech and peaceful protest.