2012 News and Events
Permanent Council Receives Foreign Minister of Ecuador
In her remarks, Amb. Lomellin responded to FM Ricardo Patiño's address, underscoring the importance of preserving the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' autonomy and that the Summit process is open only to democratic countries. (March 29, 2012).
Remarks by Ambassador Carmen Lomellin
Thank you, Chair. The United States would like to thank Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Integration of Ecuador, Mr. Ricardo Patiño for his remarks and would like to address some of his specific points.
On human rights, its reform, and Thematic Rapporteurs, it is well-established that the human rights organs of the OAS are the most well respected elements of this Organization. They are in fact the very foundation of the OAS.
In particular, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has been, and remains, an important voice in addressing human rights situations in all countries of the hemisphere, including the United States. The hearings that have taken place over the course of this week included important topics, which will assist us all in reflecting on our own human rights’ situations.
We can all take pride in the Commission’s role, historically and today, as an independent entity that is respected throughout the world for its steadfast and valiant commitment to promoting and defending human rights throughout the Americas, even in the face of the harshest criticism.
The United States strongly supports the autonomy and independence of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, as well as the Court, and supports its role in addressing particular human rights situations in countries throughout our region, including my own country.
As everyone knows, on January 25, this Organization concluded the period of reflection of the Inter-American Human Rights System and we have made clear that it is now time to allow the Commission and the Court to consider and implement, where appropriate, these non-binding recommendations, while never losing sight of their noble calling — to promote, protect, and defend human rights and vulnerable populations through the region.
It is critical that we allow these organs to operate without political interference. This is vital to the credibility of the system and the reputation it holds throughout the world.
In this spirit, we believe that any interpretation of the recommendations should not be made in a way that distorts the aim of the reflection process or weakens the autonomy and independence of the Commission.
In particular, we should ensure that the Commission’s Thematic Rapporteurs maintain their independence and access to OAS and outside donor funding.
Colleagues, the human rights organs of the OAS are worthy of our strong support and we must not let disagreements with the Commission or the Court overshadow our shared objective of bringing an end to human rights abuses.
The defense and promotion of human rights is at the heart of this Organization. Respect for human rights helps to secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracy, and prevent humanitarian crises.
We are committed to the Inter-American Human Right System and press the urgent need to work together to ensure its autonomy is not undermined.
Specific to Freedom of Expression, the United States believes a free and independent press, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter, is essential to a vibrant and well-functioning democracy.
It is critically important to representative democracy that all nations in the hemisphere uphold democratic practices and institutions. We are committed to supporting press freedom.
As Secretary Clinton stated on World Press Freedom Day, press freedom is essential to an empowered citizenry, government accountability, and responsible economic development. Wherever independent media are under threat, accountable governance and the right to freedom of expression are undermined.
In response to the points on Cuba, the countries of the Americas, by consensus at the 2001 Quebec Summit, made clear the Summit process is open only to democratic countries. The United States supports that shared commitment and looks forward to the day when a democratic Cuba takes its rightful seat at a Summit of the Americas. Sadly, that day has not yet come.
The U.S. economic relationship with Cuba is a bilateral issue. The United States has the sovereign right to carry out its economic relationships with other countries, in accordance with its own national interests and values.
The embargo represents just one aspect of U.S. policy toward Cuba, whose overarching goal is to encourage a more open environment in Cuba and increased respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Despite the trade embargo, the American people are already the largest providers of humanitarian aid to the Cuban people, and the United States is Cuba’s seventh largest trading partner.
In 2011, the United States was Cuban’s second largest supplier of food and agricultural products. That year, the United States exported $352 million in agricultural products, medical devices, medicine, wood, and humanitarian items to Cuba.
The President of the United States Obama believes that this is not the time to lift the embargo on Cuba. We continue to believe that the embargo provides an important source of leverage for further positive change on the island.