UN: Protect those who cooperate with UN human rights experts from retaliation and attack


A new UN report documenting cases of arbitrary detention, travel bans and even torture against those who meet, cooperate or give evidence to the UN's independent human rights experts is further evidence of the urgent need for States to support the appointment of a high-level UN official to combat reprisals. 

(Geneva) - States must respond swiftly and clearly to allegations of reprisals and intimidation against individuals and groups engaging with UN rights experts, the International Service for Human Rights said today.

A new UN report documenting human rights violations around the world refers to a number of deplorable cases of attacks against human rights defenders in connection with engaging, giving evidence to or meeting with UN experts.

In Oman, Mr Mohammed Al-Fazari, a human rights defender, was banned from leaving the country as a consequence of meeting with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Assembly and Association during his visit to the country. In the United Arab Emirates, Mr Osama al-Najjar, a blogger and human rights defender, was arrested, detained, tortured and convicted in response to his cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers and his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. In Saudi Arabia, Ms Samar Badawi, a human rights defender advocating for the release of her spouse, human rights lawyer Mr Waleed Abu al-Khair, received threats after having publicly raised the subject of her spouse’s and other political prisoners’ detention in Saudi Arabia in a statement she delivered to the Human Rights Council. She has been banned from traveling abroad for an indefinite period of time. Similar cases of reprisals against those engaging with with UN's human rights experts are documented in relation to Honduras, Kuwait and Venzuela.

‘Beyond the troubling fact that many governments continue to ignore allegations of human rights violations sent to them by UN experts, the report highlights the additional challenge of States directly attacking individuals and groups seeking to engage with those experts,’ said Madeleine Sinclair, Legal Counsel with the International Service for Human Rights.

‘What’s perhaps even more shocking is the perverse reality that other Member States of the UN tolerate this situation,’ said Ms Sinclair. ‘States must confront the fact that by doing nothing concrete to address this situation, they are complicit in undermining the system they have created to promote and protect human rights,’ she added.

Two years ago Human Rights Council took the step of requesting the Secretary-General to designate a focal point to promote the prevention of, protection against, and accountability for reprisals and intimidation related to cooperation with the UN in the field of human rights. However, the General Assembly decided to defer consideration of and action on that request, 'in order to allow time for further consultations thereon'.

As world leaders prepare to gather in New York in the coming weeks for the start of the 70th General Assembly session, and the world’s peak human rights body – the Human Rights Council – is set to meet in Geneva, ISHR along with other NGOs have called on governments to redouble their redouble their efforts to find a way forward that will ensure that individuals and groups engaging with the UN can do so safely and without fear.

Contact: Madeleine Sinclair, Legal Counsel, ISHR, on m.sinclair@ishr.ch


  • Latin America and Caribbean
  • Middle East and North Africa
  • Human rights defenders
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • Honduras
  • Kuwait
  • Oman
  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Venezuela