Press Conference at the Human Rights Council

Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Geneva, Switzerland
March 2, 2016

Good afternoon. I’m pleased to represent the United States here at the Human Rights Council on its 10th anniversary. The statement of the United States today reflects our deep commitment to the mission and mandate of this Council. As I said a few moments ago in the chamber, the fight for greater freedom, greater respect, greater dignity is a unifying narrative of our humanity, and we are very proud to reaffirm our intention to seek reelection to this Council.

Every day, headlines from around the world only strengthen the case for the principled, balanced, and proactive leadership that this Council must provide. In Ukraine, in South Sudan, in Syria, and in so many other places, deplorable violations of human rights occur with impunity. A growing number of countries are laying siege to civil society, while unprecedented numbers of refugees mean more and more people—especially women and children—are vulnerable to predation, trafficking, and abuse. And in ways big and small, violent extremism has left its tragic mark in every corner of the globe.

This is a time when the Human Rights Council’s role as a guardian of our fundamental rights and freedoms across the globe is more important than ever. I covered a lot in my statement this afternoon, but let me now make one mention of a country with a particularly abysmal human rights record that has received a great deal of press recently—that is North Korea. The fact that North Korea’s Foreign Minister refuses to attend sessions on his own country gives some indication of the DPRK’s delusional refusal to confront the realities of what they are doing to their own people.

As Ambassador Power reminded us just this week, the United States has repeatedly urged the Security Council to address North Korea’s human rights violations, the scale and gravity of which led us to press for making the human rights situation in North Korea a permanent item on the Security Council agenda, as it now is. The Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea could not have been more damning, concluding that human rights abuses were widespread and systematic, and “have been committed…pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the State.”

This is the only nation in the world to test a nuclear weapon in the 21st century. A country determined to advance its UN-prohibited programs at the expense of the welfare of its people. And as a result it is now the subject of one of the toughest resolutions in UN history. Yet the country refuses to change, and, as we’ve seen here in Geneva, refuses even to consider change. It is a rogue state among rogue states, and the people of North Korea deserve better.

Against this global challenge, against other global challenges, the United States remains determined to serve alongside members of the Human Rights Council to fulfill its indispensable mission and fight for the dignity of all. That is why it is so important for this Council to live up to its own standards—to ensure its treatment of every nation is not subject to unfair or unfounded bias. The work is too important, and the stakes are too high to stand for anything less.

Thank you very much. I’d be happy to take your questions.