Reprisals: New report to UN Secretary-General provides roadmap for accountability

18.05.2015

 A new report prepared by ISHR for the UN Secretary-General demonstrates the need for the United Nations and States to prevent and ensure accountability for acts of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN, laying out a comprehensive roadmap for reform in that regard.

(Geneva) - A new report prepared by ISHR for the UN Secretary-General demonstrates the need for the United Nations and States to prevent and ensure accountability for acts of intimidation and reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN, laying out a comprehensive roadmap for reform in that regard.

The report, which is intended to inform the Secretary-General's own report to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in September, documents a disturbing pattern of reprisals against human rights defenders seeking to provide information or testimony to the UN, including cases of arbitrary detention and travel bans in China and Kuwait, defamation and stigmatisation in Honduras and Venezuela, and judicial harassment in the Maldives and Thailand. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the steps taken by the State to prevent, investigate or ensure accountability for reprisals have been inadequate or non-existent, with a high-level of impunity licensing further attacks in many States.

The report also sets out the legal obligations of both States and UN bodies and mechanisms to prevent and promote accountability for reprisals, noting recent positive steps taken by various UN treaty bodies, the President and Bureau of the Human Rights Council, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights. It reiterates, however, that the primary duty to prevent and remedy reprisals lies with States themselves and extends to require action to end reprisals by non-State actors. In this regard the report also notes that preventing and addressing cases of intimidation and reprisals cannot be seen as separate from States' broader obligations to ensure a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders and other civil society actors.

'States must refrain from intimidation and reprisals against those who seek to cooperate or submit information to the UN or regional or national human rights authorities,' said ISHR Programme Manager Eleanor Openshaw. 

'The duty of States requires that they investigate and ensure that any allegations of reprisals, whether perpetrated by State or non-State actors, are subject to a full, independent and impartial investigation, with perpetrators held accountable and victims provided with effective remedy,' she said. 

'States also have a duty to cooperate fully, substantively and promptly with the UN in cases of alleged intimidation or reprisals, including by providing good faith undertakings to follow up on cases and to report back to the UN as to investigative, protective and remedial steps taken.'

'Where States fail in this duty the UN itself has a duty to step up, including by speaking out publicly and by mandating international investigations where appropriate,' Ms Openshaw said.

'The time has come for the UN to fully live up to its moral and legal duties to protect and support those people - whether human rights defenders, victims, or witnesses - who provide vital information and evidence, often at great personal risk.'

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw, Programme Manager (Reprisals), ISHR, on e.openshaw@ishr.ch 

Category:

Region
  • Asia
  • Latin America and Caribbean
Topic
  • Reprisals and intimidation
Mechanism
  • ECOSOC Committee on NGOs
  • UN Human Rights Council
  • African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights
Country
  • China
  • Honduras
  • Kuwait
  • Maldives
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Venezuela