Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Third Committee Meeting on Countries of Concern(Longform)

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
October 4, 2021


The United States is committed to defending and promoting the human rights of people in all nations. Our expectations of others are the same as those we set for ourselves and are grounded in our own experience as a democracy- imperfect and often falling short of our own ideals- but ever striving for a more inclusive, rights-respecting, and free country.

All human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent, and interrelated. All of us, no matter our walks of life, are born with these same rights. In every part of the world, we see brave people standing up in defense of their rights and demanding accountability from their governments. The commonality that unites them is their yearning for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We stand with human rights defenders around the globe and will speak out wherever human rights are being violated or abused.

If elected to the UN Human Rights Council, the United States will use that platform to advance human dignity around the world.

The United States is gravely concerned regarding the human rights situations in several countries, including Afghanistan, China, Syria, Nicaragua, Yemen, Venezuela, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cuba, Belarus, Cambodia, Russia, Burma, the DPRK, and Iran. A complete version of our statement will be submitted for the record.

The United States is deeply concerned by reported human rights abuses and restrictions to women’s rights in Afghanistan. The Taliban publicly represented it will build a more inclusive political order that respects the rights of all persons in Afghanistan, including women and girls, journalists, individuals with disabilities, and members of other minority groups, and yet we have seen early actions inconsistent with those commitments. We are closely watching and will judge the Taliban by its actions, not only its words. We welcome the UN’s efforts to monitor and report on the human rights situation.

Despite the PRC’s continued attempts to divert attention from the genocide and crimes against humanity occurring in Xinjiang, we will not keep silent while over one million Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups are detained in internment camps in Xinjiang. We also condemn extreme restrictions on human rights and on the long-held religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions in Tibet and call for the immediate release of democratic activists by authorities in Hong Kong.

With respect to Syria, the United States strongly supports efforts to promote accountability for the atrocities perpetrated by the Assad regime against the Syrian people and secure progress toward the release of arbitrarily detained Syrians and provision of information on the missing to their loved ones. We look forward to hearing from the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry regarding its work documenting credible cases of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, and violations of international humanitarian law.

We stand in solidarity with Nicaraguans who risk their lives to press for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Ortega-Murillo regime has jailed opposition leaders, students, reporters, business leaders, human rights activists, and members of civil society. This must stop immediately.

In Yemen, the United States remains troubled by ongoing and credible reporting of human rights violations by all parties to the conflict, including the use of starvation as a weapon of war, recruitment of child soldiers, arbitrary detention of civilians, torture, and sexual violence. We call attention to the continuous assault on basic freedoms in areas of Yemen under Houthi control, where most Yemenis live.

With respect to Venezuela, we agree with High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet’s disturbing assessment that Maduro and his enablers have carried out intimidation and unjust prosecution of human rights defenders, faith leaders, student groups, and union leaders for their legitimate activities. They must be held accountable for their actions to undermine democracy or violate human rights.

We are horrified by the ongoing human rights abuses in northern Ethiopia, including accounts of gender-based violence and the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as blocking of humanitarian access. We urge all parties to come to the table immediately and without preconditions and begin dialogue towards a negotiated ceasefire.

The United States remains disturbed by the regular reports of politically motivated disappearances and inhumane detention conditions in Eritrea, which raises concerns regarding its candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council.

We stand in solidarity with all brave Cubans in their call for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We urge the Cuban regime to cease its repression of its people. Likewise in Belarus, we have been inspired by the bravery and courage of peaceful activists standing up to the brutal and violent Lukashenka regime.

On Cambodia, the United States is deeply troubled by continued reports of harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, tightening restrictions on civil society and media, and the deterioration of democratic space and multiparty democracy. We urge the Cambodian government to protect fundamental freedoms.

We are deeply concerned by the Russian government’s targeted repression, including through actions beyond its borders, of the political opposition, independent media, and civil society groups, and its orchestration of illegitimate elections in Russia-occupied Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. Impunity for widespread human rights violations and abuses committed by officials in the Republic of Chechnya, including against members of the LGBTQI+ community, must end.

Four years ago, Burma’s military launched a horrific ethnic cleansing against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State. Tragically, today many of the same the same military leaders who perpetrated the February 1 coup are committing abuses against pro-democracy activists and members of ethnic and religious minority communities across the country, and we have seen the same light infantry brigades that terrorized Rohingya communities in 2017 inflict brutal violence on pro-democracy protestors since the coup. The coup and the brutality of the military’s subsequent crackdown have exacerbated the already precarious situation for vulnerable people across Burma, including Rohingya. The United States continues to underscore the need for unhindered humanitarian access to all people requiring assistance in Burma.

The United States stands with the millions of North Koreans whose human rights continue to be violated by one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world, including the more than 100,000 individuals who suffer unspeakable abuses in the regimes political prison camps. We are appalled by the increasingly draconian measures the regime has taken, including shoot-to-kill orders at the North Korea-China border, to tighten control of its people under the guise of fighting COVID-19.

We reiterate our call for an end to the campaign of repression against the people of Belarus for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms, and urge the regime unconditionally to release all political prisoners. We reiterate our call for Belarusian authorities to begin a facilitated dialogue inclusive of the opposition and civil society leading to free and fair elections under international observation.

The United States remains gravely concerned by gross human rights violations in Iran, including reports of death sentences imposed following unfair trials and forced confessions reportedly obtained through torture. Impunity for the killings of hundreds of protesters in November 2019 and the continued repression of members of religious minority groups must end now.

The United States will continue to call out and hold accountable governments that resort to transnational repression, whether to target activists, journalists, or opposition leaders beyond their borders. These actions threaten the rules-based international order, undermine collective peace and security, and are incompatible with respect for human dignity.

Thank you.