U.S. Department of State
Press Statement by Richard Boucher, Spokesman
U.S. Applauds Successful UN Human Rights Commission Session
In its first session of the new millennium, the UN Commission on Human Rights drew attention to the world's worst human rights violations; created a fact-finding mechanism to report on the situation of human rights defenders worldwide; recognized for the first time that honor killings are a serious violation of women's human rights; and reinforced the link between democracy and human rights. Throughout the Commission's 6 weeks, the United States spoke out on a variety of issues ranging from human rights violations in specific countries to the protection of vulnerable groups, including gays and lesbians, children at risk, and the mentally disabled.
The U.S.-sponsored resolution on human rights in the former Yugoslavia passed by an overwhelming margin (44-1-8), with only Russia opposing. A vast majority of Commission members agrees that the regime of Slobodan Milosevic is the number one human rights problem facing the former Yugoslavia.
A second significant achievement was the Czech and Polish resolution on human rights in Cuba (21-18-14). Co-sponsored by the U.S. and over 20 other countries, it helped draw world attention to courageous human rights defenders and independent journalists who risk their freedom to speak out for a democratic Cuba. It also reflects the Czech and Polish peoples' belief that sustained Commission examination can facilitate a dictatorial government's peaceful transition to democracy.
Among the Commission's most important decisions was to adopt a decisive resolution on Chechnya (25-7 with 19 abstentions). As Secretary Albright noted in her March 24 speech to the Commission, "We cannot ignore the fact that thousands of Chechen civilians have died and more than 200,000 have been driven from their homes." Although we take no satisfaction in the need for such a measure, the U.S. co-sponsored the resolution because we remain gravely concerned about human rights in Chechnya. We urge the Government of Russia promptly to facilitate and implement the Commission's recommendations.
The unanimous adoption (45-0-8) of a Romanian-sponsored resolution on the right to democracy was an important achievement. The Commission reaffirmed, for the second straight year, that states can best protect human rights by working together to promote democracy. The resolution confirms that democracy is not part of any particular tradition, but rather is universal, rooted in the richly diverse nature of the community of democracies.
By the narrowest margin since 1995, the Commission passed a procedural motion by China not to take action on a resolution on human rights abuses in China (22-18-12). The vote demonstrated that increasingly, member countries believe that China should not escape Commission scrutiny. The United States was proud to sponsor the resolution as part of our principled, purposeful policy of engagement with China. By so doing, we spoke up for the Chinese people and drew attention to the marked deterioration in the human rights situation in China during the past year.
The Commission also passed U.S.-supported country-specific actions on Afghanistan, Burma, Iran, Iraq, and Sierra Leone, among others, as well as a number of important thematic resolutions. The Commission also recommended the adoption of two protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The first bans and criminalizes child prostitution and child pornography, while the second addresses the use of child soldiers.
In sum, the Commission began the millennium by promoting human rights, democracy, and the use of global mechanisms to promote global human rights rules. We look forward to continuing to work with other member states, international organizations, and NGOs to ensure that the Commission continues to champion the universality of fundamental human rights principles.
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