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UNHRC Adopts Resolution To Protect Human Rights On The Internet

The U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday adopted by consensus a resolution with the message that there can be no division or double standard regarding human rights online.

The landmark resolution makes clear that all individuals are entitled to the same human rights and fundamental freedoms online as they are offline, and all governments must protect those rights regardless of the medium.

Sweden was the main sponsor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by over 80 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Turkey, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

In a statement welcoming the resolution, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said it was an addition in the fight for the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms online, in particular the freedom of expression, as well as the freedoms of religion or belief, assembly and association, and the right to be free of arbitrary interference with privacy.

"It comes at a time the free flow of news and information is under threat in countries around the world. We are witnessing an alarming surge in the number of cases involving government censorship and persecution of individuals for their actions online - sometimes for just a single tweet or text message," Clinton said.

She vowed that Washington would "continue to stand with our partners to address challenges to online freedom, and to ensure that human rights are protected in the public square of the 21st century."

Also on Thursday, the Human Rights Council members adopted by consensus a resolution on "The Right to a Nationality: Women and Children." Jointly sponsored by the United States, Botswana, Colombia, Mexico, Iraq, Turkey, and Slovakia, the resolution aimed to address an important but under-recognized human right, the right to a nationality, with a specific focus on women and children.

This is the first time that the Human Rights Council has addressed the issue of discriminatory nationality laws targeting women, which can lead to statelessness. There were 49 co-sponsors supporting the resolution, with representation from every geographical region.

The resolution focused on the issues of protecting both a woman's and a child's right to a nationality, with the goal of reducing statelessness. The equal right to a nationality for women, including the ability to acquire and retain nationality and confer it on their children, reduces the likelihood that they will become stateless and vulnerable to serious harm. It is estimated that 12 million people around the world are stateless.

While recognizing the right of each State to determine by law who its nationals are, the resolution urged States to refrain from enacting or maintaining discriminatory nationality legislation and to reform nationality laws that discriminate against women. Such actions would be consistent with States' obligations under international law.

The resolution also welcomed the increased efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to prevent and reduce statelessness among women and children, and called for free birth registration for every child.

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