Posts Tagged 'US State Department'

Kerry Likens Uganda Anti-Gay Law to Anti-Semitism and Apartheid

John KerryRepost from Reuters

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday likened new anti-gay legislation in Uganda that imposes harsh penalties for homosexuality to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germanyor apartheid South Africa.

“You could change the focus of this legislation to black or Jewish and you could be in 1930s Germany or you could be in 1950s-1960s apartheid South Africa,” Kerry told a group of reporters. “It was wrong there egregiously in both places and it is wrong here,” he added.

Kerry said the legislation signed by President Yoweri Museveni on Monday was “atrocious” and expressed concern at mounting discrimination against gays in 78 countries around the world. Continue Reading

U.S. Secretary of State on the Enactment of Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

This is a tragic day for Uganda and for all who care about the cause of human rights. Ultimately, the only answer is repeal of this law.

The United States is deeply disappointed in the enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. For the four years since the bill was introduced, we have been crystal clear that it blatantly violates human rights obligations that Uganda’s Human Rights Commission itself has recognized are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution

Today’s signing threatens a dangerous slide backward in Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and a serious threat to the LGBT community in Uganda.

We are also deeply concerned about the law’s potential to set back public health efforts in Uganda, including those to address HIV/AIDS, which must be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner in order to be effective.

As President Obama stated, this legislation is not just morally wrong, it complicates a valued relationship. Now that this law has been enacted, we are beginning an internal review of our relationship with the Government of Uganda to ensure that all dimensions of our engagement, including assistance programs, uphold our anti-discrimination policies and principles and reflect our values.

From Nigeria to Russia and Uganda, we are working globally to promote and protect the human rights of all persons. The United States will continue to stand against any efforts to marginalize, criminalize, and penalize vulnerable persons in any society.

Anti-LBGT Rhetoric in The Gambia

Press Statement

John Kerry
Secretary of State

Washington, DC
February 19, 2014

The United States is deeply troubled by the hateful rhetoric used by President Jammeh in his National Day speech on February 18. All people are created equal and should be able to live free from discrimination, and that includes discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation. We call on the Government of The Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.

Human rights and fundamental freedoms belong to all individuals. The United States stands by you no matter where you are and no matter who you love.

State Department Expresses “Deep Concern with Nigeria’s Enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act”

Press Statement:
John Kerry, Secretary of State
Washington, DC
January 13, 2014

The United States is deeply concerned by Nigeria’s enactment of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.

Beyond even prohibiting same sex marriage, this law dangerously restricts freedom of assembly, association, and expression for all Nigerians.

Moreover, it is inconsistent with Nigeria’s international legal obligations and undermines the democratic reforms and human rights protections enshrined in its 1999 Constitution.

People everywhere deserve to live in freedom and equality. No one should face violence or discrimination for who they are or who they love.

We join with those in Nigeria who appeal for the protection of their fellow citizens’ fundamental freedoms and universal human rights.

Related Content:

Nigerian Leader Signs Law Banning Marriage – ABC News

President Jonathan Signs Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill into Law – NAIJ

Human Rights: Advancing American Interests and Values

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice addressed the participants of the Human Rights First 2013 Summit in Washington DC yesterday, in her speech Amb. Rice stressed that advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to this administrations foreign policy. In her remarks Rice noted that LGBT human rights is an important component in advancing this agenda. Amb. Rice noted,

No one–no one–should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.  So, we are working to lead internationally, as we have domestically, on LGBT issues. This summer, President Obama championed equal treatment for LGBT persons while standing next to the President of Senegal, a country that is making progress on democratic reforms, but like too many nations, still places criminal restrictions on homosexuality.  President Obama met with LGBT and other civil society activists in St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss the restrictions they face in Russia.  At the UN Human Rights Council and in regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States and the Pan American Health Organization, the United States has fought for and won support for resolutions that recognize the rights and protect the safety and dignity of LGBT persons.  We created the Global Equality Fund to protect LGBT rights and those who defend them.

After the speech, Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, said in a statement,

Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term trade-offs cannot alter our foundational values, and that respect for human rights is essential to our security.

Following her speech, Ambassador Rice met with human rights defenders from Bahrain, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the international LGBT community.

Read the full speech here.

 

What We Need From the Next Head of PEPFAR

President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS ReliefDr. Eric Goosby stepped down from his role as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator this month. As the White House and the State Department consider Dr. Goosby’s replacement, the Council believes there are some qualities that are essential in his successor.

The Council and its member organizations strongly support the President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – not only for health policy reasons, but for the broader reflection of fundamental U.S. values that PEPFAR offers. In that respect, we believe it crucial that PEPFAR programs be fully inclusive of most-at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM). We are grateful that  the Obama Administration has embraced that principle by expanding PEPFAR programming to include MSM – a legacy that, in turn, is elevating the importance of enabling legal environments for MSM prevention and treatment programs.

The nominee for Dr. Goosby’s replacement obviously must reflect experience in, and knowledge of, HIV/AIDS policy. Given the cross-agency nature of our tools to fight HIV/AIDS, however, we believe it critically important that he or she also demonstrate proven abilities to lead a complex and multi-tiered interagency health policy team.

Moreover, the new Coordinator will carry important leadership responsibilities in ensuring the consistency and integrity of PEPFAR programs. This must include clear commitment to meeting the needs of most-at-risk populations, including LGBT individuals, in each country served by PEPFAR. It equally must include persistence in seeking host country understanding of, and shared commitment to, this goal.

The Council remains concerned at indications that some PEPFAR implementers may have inappropriately blurred the distinction between their personal views on homosexuality and their responsibility, as an implementing organization of U.S. policy, not to undercut broad U.S. government policy goals that support both sound HIV/AIDS prevention and LGBT rights. We wish to see a Coordinator who will prioritize the integrity and effectiveness of our programs in this respect, even while respecting First Amendment rights. We, in turn, will join in holding the new Coordinator publicly accountable for effective oversight in investigating and responding to any alleged abuse.

Finally, the person selected as Coordinator has an essential role in communicating to foreign leaders, and indeed to American and foreign publics, the critical importance of PEPFAR’s life-saving programs, and the need for those programs to embrace all populations.

The new Global AIDS Coordinator can anchor a strong legacy not only of humanitarian attention to a critical health challenge, but also to insistence that our global health policies be fully inclusive, in reflection of American values. The Council for Global Equality is hopeful that there will be a speedy announcement of Dr. Goosby’s replacement, and that that announcement will reflect these inclusive values that are critical to the direction in which our PEPFAR programs must go.

Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT Persons in Europe and Beyond

Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT Persons in Europe and BeyondRepost from DipNote 
by Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

I was honored to represent the United States government at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe’s Annual Conference, held in Zagreb, Croatia yesterday.  Before an audience of more than 250 activists from 45 countries across Europe, I affirmed the strong U.S. commitment to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Europe and beyond.  While noting some positive developments in Europe, such as anti-discrimination and hate crime measures, I also expressed deep concern about negative trends in a number of countries in the region. The Anti-Gay Propaganda law in Russia, for example, has led to an increase in harassment and violence targeting LGBT persons.  Similar laws have been proposed or are being discussed in other European countries. And we heard at ILGA how such laws validate discrimination and lead to an increase in violence and intimidation.

On the margins of this important gathering, I also met with Croatian government and EU officials as well as civil society organizations from Croatia and elsewhere in Europe.  Those officials included Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, and Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director for Equality in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Justice, who both joined me in delivering keynote remarks.

In a roundtable discussion with LGBT advocates from across Europe, I heard firsthand about the human rights challenges facing LGBT persons, including legal difficulties in changing gender markers on official documents for transgender persons, violence and harassment targeting LGBT persons, particularly around Pride marches, and the pressing need to ensure societies at large become more tolerant and inclusive of LGBT persons and their families.  This sobering reality will inform the work of the Department as it continues to use diplomacy and foreign assistance to increase human rights protection for LGBT persons. Continue Reading.

Protecting and Promoting LGBT Rights in Europe

Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and LaborRemarks by Uzra Zeya
Acting Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
ILGA-Europe Annual Conference 2013
Zagreb, Croatia
October 24, 2013

First, thank you very much Evelyne and to ILGA Europe for including me in this panel. I am so glad to be here.

In response to your question, the most important thing to understand about the work of the U.S. government is that protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a foreign policy priority. That’s why I am here in Zagreb to deliver this message personally. The fundamental principle that guides our LGBT work is that the human rights of LGBT persons are not different than or separate from the human rights of everyone else. All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are or who they love.

Looking across the region over 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. Both France and the U.K. have legalized same sex marriage and more countries are taking steps to make sure that LGBT persons can make the choices that work for them and their families. It is also encouraging to see new anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming. Laws, even when it is unclear how they will be enforced, are incredibly important. They are a statement of a country’s values and they have a teaching effect. Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment. This is particularly true when authorities don’t act to protect all of their citizens and when they fail to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by or against particular groups.

I’ve singled out Russia but, as you all know, it is not the only place where there were disturbing events in 2013. We saw too many Pride and IDAHO marches confronted by counter-protestors, or, as just happened in Serbia, canceled altogether because of the threat of violence. Throughout Europe, LGBT persons continue to be harassed and discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and many other areas of public life.

There is clearly work to be done. In the United States, we pursue this work guided by a Presidential Memorandum which lays out five main lines of effort: Decriminalization of LGBT status and conduct, protection of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers, foreign assistance to protect human rights, swift response to violence against LGBT persons, and engaging international organizations to fight LGBT discrimination.

We raise the human rights of LGBT persons in our diplomatic engagement at all levels – from the President, to Secretary Kerry, to our Ambassadors and officers at post and in Washington. Our Ambassadors and officers march proudly in Pride celebrations. Advancing equality for LGBT persons isn’t just the right thing to do; it is fundamental to advancing democracy and human rights. As societies become more inclusive, they become better partners within the global community, joined together by common values and common interests.

The U.S. also knows that change on the ground comes from within. At the State Department, same-sex partners and spouses at overseas missions enjoy the same benefits allowed by law as all our employees’ families. We’ve included a category for same-sex partners in our personnel system. It is now easier for transgender Americans to change the gender on their passport. And we’ve stated unequivocally that we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

We regularly engage with and support civil society organizations to ensure our work “does no harm” and supports long-term change. In December 2011, then-Secretary Clinton launched the Global Equality Fund to support civil society advocates working to strengthen the human rights of LGBT persons. The United States has partnered with eight-like minded governments – France, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark – as well several foundations to raise and allocate more than $7 million dollars for projects in over 50 countries. The Fund provides emergency legal, medical, and relocation assistance to LGBT individuals and activists; capacity building programs to civil society organizations; and, through our embassy small grants programs, short-term funding to nascent LGBT organizations. This year, we’re excited about the Fund’s focus to increase the capacity of transgender organizations in Europe to document and respond to incidents of violence targeting transgender people.

###

Russian Civil Society Leaders Inspire

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaulRepost From Ambassador Michael McFaul 

Despite a packed G-20 schedule filled with meetings on economic issues and the situation in Syria, President Obama also took the time while in St. Petersburg to meet with representatives of Russia’s civil society. He holds such meetings in nearly every country he visits, because, as he told these leaders, he believes that “a country’s strength ultimately comes from its people and that as important as government is — and laws — what makes a country democratic and effective in delivering prosperity and security and hope to people is when they’ve got an active, thriving civil society.” These engagements are an opportunity not only to hear candid views about the country in which these representatives live, but also about the United States.

The meeting in St. Petersburg was no exception. The President, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and I met with a fascinating group of activists that included Boris Pustyntsev, Ivan Pavlov, Yevgeniya Chirikova, Yana Yakoleva, Dmitry Makarov, Igor Kochetkov, Yelena Milashina, Olga Lenkova, and Pavel Chikov. The group represented a broad cross-section of Russian NGOs and activists who work on issues such as human rights, the environment, media freedom, rights of business entrepreneurs, LGBT rights, and fighting corruption, racism, and discrimination.

Our colleagues gave President Obama a strong sense of the challenges facing civil society leaders in Russia today, especially new laws that place restrictions on foreign-funded NGOs and discriminate against the LGBT community. Like others around the world, the President has been following with particular concern the increased climate of intolerance and violence that have accompanied the new law affecting the LGBT community, and he had the chance to hear from two courageous LGBT activists from St. Petersburg who described the challenging environment for their work. Participants urged him to keep human rights, including LGBT rights, on his agenda; to correct mischaracterizations of American policy and laws (especially the false analogy between Russia’s “foreign agent” law and U.S. legislation on lobbying); to empower multilateral organizations to pressure the Russian government to meet its international commitments; and to stand up against discrimination and for freedom of assembly and expression.

The President learned not only about the situation in Russia but also how the Administration’s policies on the environment, whistle-blower protections, and Syria affect the work of civil society activists in Russia. President Obama acknowledged the complexities of balancing national security and individual rights on a variety of issues, but he also expressed faith in the power of American democratic institutions, including a free press, to provide the proper context for resolving specific issues and ultimately to make the American system more democratic. President Obama gave particular attention to the role of civil society in making governments more representative and accountable. He noted his own background as a community organizer, highlighting the significant and important role civil society plays in bettering the lives of ordinary people.

President Obama carefully took notes and responded to all of the questions raised during the meeting. He was clearly energized intellectually and inspired. A meeting planned for forty minutes turned into almost an hour-and-a-half interactive discussion. The President pledged to consider every concrete proposal and later tasked me to follow up on some practical ideas proposed by our roundtable participants.

In the car ride to the Air Force One after the event, the President commented on the articulate, passionate, and practical presentations these leaders had made, and we had a very wide-ranging discussion about civil society in Russia, civil society and human rights around the world, and democracy more generally. After two long days at the G-20, I was struck by how invigorated the President seemed after the discussion.

I thank our Russian participants for such a stimulating session and, like the President, applaud their courageous and important efforts in Russia.

Michael McFaul is Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation.

Ambassador Eisen Marches in Pride Parade

Photo: Raymond Johnston

Photo: Raymond Johnston

Repost from The Prague Post

U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Norman Eisen marched in the Prague Pride 2103 Parade, carrying the second banner after one held by the organizers. He participated in the first half hour of the march, dropping out about half way but two Prague embassy banners made it to the end, as did another one from the US Embassy in Berlin.

The Berlin banner carried sayings by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama in support of human rights and gay rights respectively. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law,” the sign said next to a stylized picture of Obama.

“All men are created equal. The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened,” the banner said next to Kennedy’s likeness. Another embassy banner quoted Secretary of State Hillary Clinton equating human rights and gay rights.

In another show of support for gay rights, the Gloriette, a small but highly visible building in the US Embassy complex, is being lit at night in a rainbow of colors until Aug. 18, the end of the week-long Prague Pride Festival. “The Gloriette is a garden pavilion perched high on the hill behind the U.S. Embassy in Prague. It flies the American flag and is the most visible sign of the U.S. presence in the Czech Republic. During Communist rule the Gloriette provided a beacon of inspiration as a symbol of freedom and democracy,” the embassy said on its website.

“The Embassy of the United States of America in Prague is proud to participate in the annual Prague Pride Festival for the third consecutive year,” the statement continued, adding that it supported the festival through a grant program. Continue Reading


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