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UN joins regional experts in urging countries to stop reprisals against rights defenders

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders on Wednesday joined special rapporteurs from the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official websites] in urging governments around the world to stop reprisals against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with UN and regional human rights mechanisms. In a statement, UN special rapporteur Margaret Sekaggya [CV, PDF], along with rapporteurs Reine Alapini-Gansou [official profile] and Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez [official profile], claimed [press release] that such government reprisals occur in various forms, and that enhanced monitoring of these situations can help safeguard the collaboration between civil society and international human rights mechanisms that is necessary to respect UN, ACHRP, and IACHR rules that prohibit reprisals by States and non-State actors. Read the statement:

These reprisals against individuals and/or groups engaging directly with the UN, the ACHPR and the IACHR, or otherwise providing information on particular countries human rights situations, take the form of smear campaigns, harassment, intimidation, direct threats, physical attacks and killings.

Such steps towards full accountability for reprisals are an important preventive measure that should be combined with those that facilitate, rather than deter, civil society's safe and unimpeded access to the UN and the regional human rights institutions.

The rapporteurs also expressed their support for the recent initiative by UN Human Rights Council [official website] President Laura Dupuy Lasserre [official profile], who called on governments to put an end to harassment and intimidation of individuals and groups attending the ongoing session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sekkagya reported [press release] in October that human rights defenders are still being harassed [JURIST report], attacked and killed despite the international declaration adopted for their protection more than a decade ago. In her fourth report [text, PDF] on the right to defend human rights, issued in December 2011, the UN rapporteur stressed that implementing the 1998 UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders [text, PDF] is essential to allowing the defenders to carry out their work, and that failing to implement these international standards creates an undermined, ineffective process. Protection of human rights remains a central concern for the UN, as rights groups and individual activists across the globe remain subject to ongoing violence, harassment, and arrest.

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