States called to take action on reprisals at UN General Assembly

09.09.2015

States must support stronger action to combat reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN by pushing for the General Assembly to move forward in appointing a UN focal point on the issue, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

Image of the UN General Assembly

(New York) - States must support stronger action to combat reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN by pushing for the General Assembly to move forward in appointing a UN focal point on the issue, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) said today.

Two years ago, the Human Rights Council passed an important resolution calling for the UN to appoint a high-level focal point with a mandate to prevent and promote accountability for threats and attacks against people who engage with the UN. However, action on the resolution was deferred at the General Assembly by States who said they needed more time to consider the issue.

In the meantime, a number of regional and international mechanisms have taken action to provide better protection to those who contribute to their work. The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights resolved in May 2014 to appoint its own senior focal point on reprisals. The Chairpersons of the UN treaty bodies adopted a significant policy to combat intimidation and reprisals against those who provide them with information or contribute to their work.

ISHR joined 17 other NGOs in a joint letter urging States to redouble their efforts to find a way forward and resolve the still unsettled deferral by the General Assembly of the consideration of the focal point.

‘Two years have passed since States said they needed more time. While States fail to even debate a way forward, they are tolerating impunity for those that perpetuate intimidation or reprisals, and undermine the integrity of the UN,' said Madeleine Sinclair, Programme Manager and Legal Counsel with ISHR. ‘States have had ample time to resolve their differences. In the meantime, individuals and groups have continued to experience intimidation and reprisals related to their cooperation with the UN human rights system,' she said.

Recent cases include the stigmatisation of Venzeulan human rights defenders, the enforced disappearance and untimely death of Chinese activist Cao Shunli, and the systematic intimidation of those providing evidence to UN investigators in Sri Lanka.

'A more robust, coordinated, comprehensive and systemic UN response to challenge reprisals is needed more than ever. The current ad hoc methods employed by different mechanisms and bodies do not adequately uphold the right to communicate with the UN. Furthermore, defenders are in the unacceptable situation of facing greater and less protection depending on what aspects of the UN human rights system they interact with.

‘Every member State of the United Nations has an opportunity and responsibility to show it is serious about ending violence and intimidation against those that struggle for human rights, by ensuring the UN significantly steps up its response to reprisals,’ Ms Sinclair said.

The letter also calls for principled action on reprisals at the upcoming session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva (September 14 – October 2), underlining that any ongoing consideration of the previous Human Rights Council resolution is not an excuse for inaction on a follow up initiative that would reaffirm the need for a prompt and effective response to all cases of reprisals.

Contact: Eleanor Openshaw on e.openshaw@ishr.ch

 

Photo: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

 

 

Category:

Topic
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
Mechanism
  • UN General Assembly
  • UN Human Rights Council