March 6, 2024
Five members of the UNA-NCA attended a U.S. Department of State-hosted virtual call with civil society organizations ahead of the 55th session of the UN Human Rights Council which will take place in Geneva from February 26 to April 5, 2024. The call allowed individuals and organizations an opportunity to engage directly with DOS leadership on a range of human rights-related topics. Deputy Assistant Secretaries Allison Lombardo and Allison Peters took questions from the attendees and stressed the importance of these types of discussions, saying that these public events (that are open to civil society organizations and U.S. citizens but closed to journalists) help them form their priority-setting and goals upon their arrival in Geneva.

Topics discussed on the call ranged from the Israel-Hamas war and Russo-Ukrainian war to country situations in South Sudan, Syria, Iran, and many other countries. The Deputy Assistant Secretaries explained that they continue to share concerns about the conduct of hostilities in Gaza since the October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel, but they do not support the notion that the International Criminal Court (ICC) has jurisdiction over this matter, nor do they intend to bring up at the HRC the possibility of a fact-finding mission, commission of inquiry, or similar body, since this topic is not listed on the session agenda. The Deputy Assistant Secretaries did say that they were tracking Israeli armed forces’ response, which has resulted in the deaths of approximately 27,000 Palestinians, including approximately 11,000 children, they said. “The human suffering [in Gaza] is on the forefront of our mind,” Ms. Lombardo said. They also emphasized President Biden’s recent national security memo, which reinforced the importance of safeguards pertaining to arms transfers to third-party countries. The guidelines require that all U.S. partners receiving military aid provide written assurances that they will use the weapons and military materiel in accordance with the law of armed conflict. The Deputy Assistant Secretaries also emphasized the need for Israel to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Gazans.

Finally, the Deputy Assistant Secretaries did address the current situation in Venezuela, given Thursday’s announcement by Venezuela’s foreign minister, Yvan Gil, expelling the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from the country. The Deputy Assistant Secretaries said that they were in contact with their U.N. colleagues but stopped short of laying out a policy or plan of support. They promised that more information would come from them in the near future. They also spoke about their work combatting transnational repression of human rights defenders and journalists, as well as their work to uphold freedom of religion and expression, women’s rights, human rights related to aging with gender, children's rights, human rights concerns pertaining to artificial intelligence and spyware, and the U.S. government’s determination that China has perpetrated crimes against humanity and genocide against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

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