Cablegate: Assessment of U.S. Entry Into the Human Rights Council -
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DE RUEHGV #0880/01 2890651
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R 160651Z OCT 09
FM USMISSION GENEVA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9688
RUEHZJ/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4639
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 GENEVA 000880
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TAGS: PHUM PREL UNHRC
SUBJECT: ASSESSMENT OF U.S. ENTRY INTO THE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL -
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
1. (SBU) The 12th Human Rights Council Session -- the first with
the U.S. as a member -- concluded on October 2. Feedback on U.S.
participation was positive, with many delegations noting our efforts
to creatively address historically divisive issues, such as freedom
of expression, country mandates, and economic, cultural and social
rights. The session's results indicate that we shifted the dynamics
in a positive way. We had particular success in changing the terms
of the debate and in breaching some of the cross-regional divides
that characterized the freedom of expression discussions to date.
We also negotiated significant changes in resolutions, removing
objectionable language, to allow us to join consensus. The score
sheet is not perfect, as witnessed by the passage of a Russian
resolution on traditional values and several Cuban resolutions. The
Council also remains politically charged, as evidenced by the
special session on the situation in East Jerusalem and the Goldstone
report, happening less than 2 weeks after the deferral of the
resolution during the 12th session. End Summary.
2. (SBU) Although the press readouts from the session heavily
focused on the deferral of the Goldstone report, the freedom of
expression (FOE) resolution dominated much of the session's
attention. Reactions ranged from shock to admiration that Egypt and
the U.S. could agree to a text and run the resolution jointly. In
the end, our efforts to build on the President's Cairo speech earned
us a great deal of praise from Organization of the Islamic
Conference (OIC) members as well as those who often play the middle
(GRULAC, African Group, some Asian states). Our efforts to seek
consensus on a divisive issue that has long plagued the Council also
won kudos from Russia, Brazil, India and China, as well as our
traditional WEOG partners. The specific language reflected,
however, continued to pose concerns for - and prevent co-sponsorship
by - our EU colleagues, who believed that absence of references to
"individuals" in the context of religious and racial stereotyping
would provide greater leverage to advocates of the concept of
defamation of religions. However, given the large number of cross
regional co-sponsors of the text, the FOE resolution will likely
serve as a basis for future discussions of the topic.
3. (SBU) Other notable results this session include: renewal of
country mandates on Somalia, Burundi, and Cambodia; creation of a
new country mandate on Honduras; establishment of a panel to review
legal discrimination against women; and a consensus resolution on
the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. The Somali Ambassador
was particularly proud to earn U.S. co-sponsorship of his text and
offered to speak publicly and positively about the constructive role
the U.S. took. We were able to negotiate sufficient substantive
changes to texts, allowing us to join consensus on all but five
resolutions. Our leadership and expertise on health and legal
issues allowed us to significantly improve resolutions on HIV/AIDS,
access to medicines, civilians in armed conflict, 2011 review, and
economic social and cultural rights. In the end, the U.S.
cosponsored 14 of the session's 32 resolutions.
4. (SBU) Possibly the worst outcome was the Russian resolution on
traditional values. We were very close to agreeing on language that
would have placed the resolution in a human rights legal framework.
However, the Council was unable to achieve consensus, at which point
Russia reintroduced its original draft with its undefined concept of
"traditional values," which could be anything from homophobia to
female genital mutilation. The resolution passed by a vote (26Y,
15N, 6A). Other undesirable outcomes were the Cuban resolutions on
international solidarity and foreign debt, and the NAM resolutions
on the right to development and coercive measures. That said, we
were able to enlist a large number of supporting votes on right to
development and traditional values resolutions. See full list of
resolutions at bottom.
How Others Viewed U.S. Presence
5. (SBU) Likeminded delegations, such as Canada, France, Sweden,
Chile, Australia, Mauritius, and others told us they thought the
12th session was the most successful in memory and that the U.S.
presence had made the difference. They said they felt we had put
the anti-human rights groupies on the defensive. They particularly
applauded the number of country resolutions and the success of the
resolution on equal treatment before the law. They attributed many
of these successes to U.S. lobbying of other delegations and in
capitals. On multiple occasions, key African and Arab delegations
discreetly asked us to intervene with other members of their groups
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to promote outcomes that we supported. Those partnerships helped
stave off attempts to sidetrack several of our priority resolutions.
6. (SBU) Delegations from the OIC were displeased with the deferral
of the Goldstone resolution, which they largely attributed to USG
pressure on the Palestinians. That said, they appreciated our
efforts to negotiate with the Palestinians and lauded the U.S.
approach to the Muslim world via our efforts on the Council. The
traditionally critical Algerian Ambassador publicly commended the
USG for its new approach. Although not openly spoken, it appeared
that a number of unfriendly delegations were concerned that the U.S.
presence risked challenging their past dominance of the Council,
South Africa chief among them.
7. (SBU) We largely succeeded in convincing the full range of
delegations that the U.S. is taking a constructive approach to the
work of the Council. Building on that perception, we were able to
leverage support many of our priorities. We were also successful in
lobbying key African and Arab delegations when most needed. In that
sense, we have achieved a more cautious approach by some traditional
hardliners, who have been able to manipulate the Council to suit
their needs. That said, we cannot suggest that the current
session's successes represent any wholesale changes in the HRC. The
reversal of the decision to postpone the Goldstone resolution and
the dynamics around the call for a special session illustrate that
delegations remain deeply divided on these issues. Moreover, we
will face difficult battles in the upcoming Ad Hoc Committee on
Complementary Standards, which could substantively pit us against
many of the OIC countries that lauded our approach in the last HRC
session. Nothing will be easily won, but at least the 12th session
was a positive tic in our favor. We will seek to build momentum
from that session in our efforts to improve the work of the Human
Rights Council. End comment.
Resolutions this Session
8. (U) Below is the list of resolutions addressed this session,
with name of main sponsors and status of passage.
- Missing Persons. Main sponsor: Azerbaijan. Adopted without a
- Regional Human Rights Mechanisms. Main sponsors: Belgium, Mexico,
Azerbaijan, Senegal. U.S. cosponsored. Adopted without a vote.
- Mechanism on Discrimination Against Women/Equality Before Law.
Main sponsors: France, Colombia. Adopted without a vote.
- Toxic Wastes. Main sponsor: Cote d'Ivoire (Africa Group). Adopted
without a vote.
- Coercive Measures. Main sponsor: Egypt (NAM). U.S. called a vote
and voted against (32Y, 14N, 0A).
- Right to Development. Main sponsor: Egypt (NAM). U.S. called
vote and abstained (33Y, 0N, 14A).
- Independence of Judges and Lawyers. Main sponsor: Hungary. U.S.
cosponsored. Adopted without a vote. 75 cosponsors.
- Cooperation with the UN/"Reprisals." Main sponsor: Hungary.
Adopted without a vote. 59+ cosponsors.
- World Programme for Human Rights Education. Main sponsors: Costa
Rica, Italy, Morocco, Slovenia, Philippines, Senegal and Switzerland
. U.S. cosponsored. Adopted without a vote.
- Declaration on Human Rights Education. Main sponsors: Costa Rica,
Italy, Morocco, Slovenia, Philippines, Senegal and Switzerland.
U.S. cosponsored. Adopted without a vote.
- Goldstone Report Followup. Main sponsor: OIC, NAM, African Group,
Arab Group (Palestine). Deferred.
- Strengthening Respect for Human Rights (Traditional Values). Main
sponsor: Russia. EU called vote, US voted against (26Y, 15N, 6A).
- Freedom of Expression. Main sponsors: U.S., Egypt, with nearly 50
co-sponsors. Adopted without a vote.
- Armed Conflict. Main sponsor: Egypt. Adopted without a vote. -
Migrants. Main sponsor: Mexico. Adopted without a vote.
- People with Leprosy. Main sponsor: Japan. U.S. cosponsored.
Adopted without a vote.
- SR for Cambodia. Main sponsor: Japan. U.S. cosponsored. Adopted
without a vote.
- Water- Sanitation. Main sponsors: Germany and Spain. U.S.
cosponsored. Adopted without a vote with over 50 cosponsors
- HR and International Solidarity. Main sponsor: Cuba. EU called
vote, US voted no (33Y, 14N)
- Followup to SS on Food Crisis. Main sponsor: Cuba (NAM). Adopted
without a vote. U.S. provided strong EOP.
- Foreign debt. Main sponsor: Cuba. EU called vote, US voted no
(31Y, 13N, 2A).
- Access to medicines. Main sponsor: Brazil. Adopted without a
vote. U.S. provided strong EOP.
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- HIV/AIDs positive persons. Main sponsor: Brazil. Adopted without
- Follow up to special session on Financial crisis. Main sponsor:
Brazil. Adopted without a vote.
- Transitional Justice. Main sponsor: Switzerland. Adopted without
- Right to Truth. Main sponsor: Argentina. Adopted without a vote.
- HRC 2011 Review. Main sponsor: Russia. Adopted without a vote
Somalia. Main sponsor: Nigeria (African Gp). Adopted without a
- Extreme Poverty. Main sponsors: France, Australia. Adopted
without a vote.
- Honduras. Main sponsor: Colombia for GRULAC. Adopted without a
- Burma (ASSK trial). Main sponsor: Sweden (EU). U.S. cosponsored.
Adopted without a vote.