Ambassador Pamela L. Spratlen
UN Human Rights Day Remarks
December 9, 2016
Residence of EU Ambassador Eduards Stiprais (Latvia)
(Begin transcript)Ассалом aлейкум, добрый вечер, and good evening to everyone! I would like to begin by, of course, welcoming the Ombudsman to this event – it is a pleasure to see you; and I also would like very much to thank my European Union colleague, Ambassador Stiprais, because it is a pleasure once again to join the European Union in this annual reception. It is wonderful to see faces that I don’t see very often. I wish I could see more and I, just once again, want to say how important it is for us to gather and recognize the importance of human rights. Of course, we need to recognize the UNDP Resident Coordinator Stefan Priesner who is representing the UN family today.
I am representing the United States tonight, but I am also focused on my country’s role as a founding member of the United Nations. In this context, I am a great admirer of Eleanor Roosevelt, the champion of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and tonight we honor that document and her human rights legacy.
Here is something that she said that I think is very, very important: “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.”
So we are here tonight in our “small place” to recognize a few elements or building blocks that really matter for universal human rights, and two are civil society and the constitutions of nations. In this context, like my European colleague, I congratulate Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan’s new president and especially his very encouraging speech on Uzbekistan’s Constitution Day. He says he wants to crafts a new relationship between the government and its citizens, and I hope that he will be aided, as he does so, by many in this room including parliamentarians and civil society, as well as the international community.
We cannot overstate the importance, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, of the courage of citizen activists. And as I said earlier, we have some special activists here tonight and I think that we should applaud all of you.
But unfortunately, as we see and as we know, many activists cannot be here. Some have died. Others are in prison or were prevented from coming tonight.
In this new time, we believe that Uzbekistan can do more to provide due process and humane treatment to all prisoners. And I would like to speak the names of some of those of special interest to the United States who can’t be here tonight, knowing that they are symbols of a larger group of people in prison, often for apparent political reasons. There are many but they include:
Dilmurod Saidov, in prison since 2009;
Salijon Addurakhmanov, in prison since 2008;
Akzam Turgunov, in prison since 2008;
Muhammad Bekjanov, in prison since 1999 and is one of the longest imprisoned journalists in the world;
Azam Farmonov, sentenced in 2006. His case was highlighted by the United Nations Committee against Torture in 2013;
Erkin Musaev, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2007.
Of course, there is good news. We are very happy that some have recently been released and we want to thank those who were involved in the release of these people.
Murod Juraev, a former Member of Parliament who was sentenced in 1994 and was released in 2015;
Bobomurod Razzokov, a farmer and head of the Ezgulik human rights organization who was sentenced to four years in prison and was released in October of this year;
Matlyuba Kamilova, human rights activist who was arrested in September of 2010 and was released in May or June of this year;
and Samandar Kukanov, former vice chairman of the parliament who was just recently released after 24 years in prison.
These releases represent a positive and encouraging step but there is much more to be done and we hope there will be more.
And finally, I want to mention the role of leaders because they are an important human element that really matters in human rights. Let me quote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for his words from Hamburg yesterday that resonate for us tonight.
Near the end of speaking at the OSCE ministerial, he concluded:
“Clearly, there is an enormous amount on our agenda that remains, but it’s important to recognize that in a time of uncertainty, some things just don’t change. Namely, our values, our belief in freedom and democracy, our respect for universal human dignity – these are the principles reflected in the Helsinki Final Act, in the UN Charter, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
For myself, let me conclude by saying how special it is to live in Uzbekistan at a very important time in its 25-year history. It will take the collective work of all of us to support this beautiful country as it moves towards the fulfillment of its potential in every dimension, including universal human rights.
Thank you for your attention, Katta Rakhmat.