U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
October 15, 2019
Madam High Commissioner, thank you for your report detailing your office’s work. The United States is proud to continue its support for much of OHCHR’s programming with significant voluntary contributions, as we recognize that OHCHR initiatives, and in many instances your role as High Commissioner, can prove critical to states honoring the unalienable human rights possessed by every individual.
As we collectively seek to confront unprecedented human rights violations by repressive, totalitarian regimes, we were pleased to see the creation of a new Fact Finding Mission designed to document––independently and transparently––the abusive actions of the former Maduro regime in Venezuela. Documentation mechanisms like the Venezuela FFM––as well as the commissions of inquiry on Burundi and Syria, the Eminent Experts on Yemen, the Kasai and DRC teams, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, and the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan play an important role in promoting accountability and deterring human rights violations and abuses.
We were also pleased to see that you were able to visit Venezuela. Although not under ideal circumstances, your visit nevertheless allowed a partial, initial accounting of the former regime’s abuses. We hope to see you and your team eventually obtain unhindered access in Venezuela. We would also hope for this same unhindered access in Xinjiang, China–– where more than one million Uighurs, ethnic Kazaks, and other Muslims have been detained arbitrarily in so-called re-education camps since 2017––and anywhere else abuses and violations of human rights occur.
We sincerely hope you use your influence with member states and your office’s institutional relationship with the Human Rights Council to begin work on removing the flaws that forced the United States to withdraw from the Council; namely the lack of meaningful adherence to the minimal standards established for HRC membership and the persistence of the Council’s Item 7, a vehicle for the perpetual unjust condemnation of Israel. We are saddened, but hardly shocked, that countries with appalling human rights records remain members of the HRC.
Noting your engagement on the issue of climate change, we are concerned that engagements on issues peripheral to OHCHR’s core mandate risk undercutting the Office’s efficacy. We would much rather your Office intensify its focus, for example, on the important and impressive work it is doing integrating human rights considerations into UN peace operations and working to enhance early warning and prevention. Similarly, in other, more politically fraught areas, dedication to the OHCHR’s core mission eliminates risks to its credibility and reputation for impartiality.
We would also like to commend OHCHR for its awareness-raising work on the human rights concerns of members of the LGBTI community and take this opportunity to reiterate our call for the complete decriminalization of status and conduct offenses related to sexual orientation.
Madam High Commissioner, what steps do you and your office take to ensure that you receive unfettered access?