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Annual report on reprisals for interaction with UN human rights mechanisms released

Cases are reported as coming from 40 countries

At the ongoing 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the now annual report by the Secretary-General on reprisals has been published.

Reprisals, within the framework of the report, involve all acts of intimidation carried out against those seeking to cooperate or having cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights. 

In such cases, human rights defenders are often those targeted.

Cooperation with the United Nations can include engaging with staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), participating in sessions of the Human Rights Council, submitting information during the Universal Periodic Review or to OHCHR treaty bodies, or making submissions to the OHCHR Special Procedures Branch, including myself and other Special Rapporteurs.

Reprisals have been a serious problem for some time – this is the eleventh report on the subject. The Secretary-General points out that the arguments used by States in an attempt to justify reprisals have continued along the same lines seen in the past: national security arguments and counter-terrorism.

It is clear, however, that reprisals carried out by States are attempts to escape accountability for their failure to respect, protect and fulfill human rights. They often occur when domestic legal mechanisms for redress of human rights violations do not exist, have proved ineffective or have been co-opted. In such situations, human rights defenders often turn to international mechanisms, like the UN, to seek redress.

The current report covers the period from 1 June 2019 to 30 April 2020. It documents cases of reprisals carried out by 40 states. Cases against human rights defenders were recorded in relation to the following countries:

  • Algeria

  • Andorra

  • Bahrain

  • Cambodia

  • Cameroon

  • China

  • Cuba

  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

  • Egypt

  • Equatorial Guinea

  • Honduras

  • India

  • Israel

  • Lao PDR

  • Libya

  • Mali

  • Mexico

  • Morocco

  • Nicaragua

  • The Philippines

  • Russia

  • Saudi Arabia

  • Sri Lanka

  • State of Palestine

  • Turkey

  • Uzbekistan

  • Venezuela

  • Vietnam

  • Yemen

The names of some of the defenders targeted have been withheld for fear of further reprisals. This includes defenders from Bahrain, China, the DRC, Libya and Mali.

Other States reportedly carrying out reprisals included:

  • Bangladesh

  • Burundi

  • Colombia

  • Comoros

  • Kazakhstan

  • Kuwait

  • Myanmar

  • Pakistan

  • Poland

  • South Sudan

  • Thailand 

An advanced, unedited version of the report is available here: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Reprisals/Pages/Reporting.aspx

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