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UN Week – 7/9/12

July 17, 2012

This blog entry is written by members of our blogging community and expresses those experts’ views alone.

By John and Douglas Carey

In this issue: Current US view on UN Human Rights Council; a different kind of arms race.

Current US view on UN Human Rights Council.

On July 5th US Secretary of State Clinton told the press: “Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution with the message that there can be no division or double standard regarding human rights online. The landmark resolution makes clear that all individuals are entitled to the same human rights and fundamental freedoms online as they are offline, and all governments must protect those rights regardless of the medium.

“The free flow of news and information is under threat in countries around the world. We are witnessing an alarming surge in the number of cases involving government censorship and persecution of individuals for their actions online – sometimes for just a single tweet or text message.

“This resolution is a welcome addition in the fight for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online, in particular the freedom of expression, as well as the freedoms of religion or belief, assembly and association, and the right to be free of arbitrary interference with privacy.

“The United States was proud to work with the main sponsor, Sweden, and over 80 co-sponsors, including Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, and Tunisia, to help pass this resolution. We will continue to stand with our partners to address challenges to online freedom, and to ensure that human rights are protected in the public square of the 21st century.”

The UN Human Rights Council was also roundly praised in a State Department fact sheet dated July 7th, in contrast with the time only a few years ago, before the US was became a member, and our position on the Council was one of contempt. Here is some of what the fact sheet said, besides hailing the action just mentioned on Internet freedom:

“The 20th Session of the Human Rights Council underscored the broadening scope and efficacy of the Council, while highlighting the instrumental role of United States engagement with a diverse range of countries from all regions of the world to address urgent human rights concerns. U.S. leadership kept the Council at the forefront of international efforts to promote and protect human rights in Syria, and the passing of a resolution on the equal right to nationality for women and children. With our strong support, the Council passed a historic resolution on Internet freedom, and created special rapporteurs on Belarus and Eritrea. Though much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel, U.S. engagement since joining the Human Rights Council has made it a more effective and credible multilateral forum for promoting and protecting human rights. * * *

“Israel: While the biased Israel-specific agenda item unfortunately still exists, we are pleased that there were no resolutions tabled under this item during this session. However, the HRC President did name the members of the Fact Finding Mission on Israeli Settlements, created in March. As reflected by our vote against this measure at the March session, the United States strongly opposed the creation of the Fact Finding Mission.”

I have not been able to find the enabling resolution of the Council setting up its Fact Finding Mission, but will be following and reporting on its activities.

A different kind of arms race.

Today, July 9th, Thomas Countryman, the US Assistant Secretary of State in charge of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, challenged the opening session of the UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty to a species of arms race, an arms control race. Here is how he phrased it: “Our common goal is to have a treaty at the end of this month that will require states parties to regulate their international arms trade according to high standards, in accordance with their own constitutional and legal structures.”

After making clear that the treaty would not “interfere with each state’s sovereign control over the domestic possession, use, or movement of arms,” Mr. Countryman referred to “the enormous diplomatic task the Conference has set for itself: concluding an effective ATT in four short weeks of negotiation by consensus with potentially all 193 member states of the United Nations.”

We will be watching to see how close to this goal the Conference can come.

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