The Secretary-General Annual Report: Intimidation on the Basis of Cooperation with the United Nations, its Representatives and Mechanisms in the Field of Human Rights
International Justice and Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The Secretary-General annual Report (A/HRC/51/47) published on September 14th, 2022 alarmingly warned that “people in 42 different countries across the world faced reprisals and intimidation on the basis of their cooperation with the United Nations to defend human rights.” Representatives of indigenous peoples, minorities, of environment and climate change issues, as well as people discriminated because of age, sexual orientation and gender, are the most vulnerable to harrasment and persecution. Despite the shocking figures presented in the Report, the reality may be further worrying considering the numerous unreported cases. (UN News, 2022)
The UN Report denounced cases that took place between May 1st, 2021 and April 30th, 2022, showing how individuals and groups who resort to UN human rights mechanisms and procedures to seek justice for victims of human rights violations are perceived as a threat by authoritarian States, and thus targeted as a form of reprisal. (UN News, 2022) A concerning trend linked to the COVID-19 pandemic is the digitalization of procedures that, despite allowing individuals to access and engage with the United Nations remotely, exposes them to risks related to accessibility, cybersecurity and confidentiality. Oftentimes, digital technologies actually discourage individuals from resorting to the UN, particularly in circumstances where sensitive information is involved, due to lack of trust in online channels and fear of reprisal. (Report of the Secretary-General, 2022) This self-censorship trend due to increased surveillance and monitoring have created a “chilling effect” of silence stopping people from reporting human rights violations. (UN News, 2022)
“Reported attempts by representatives of Member States to block or delay the accreditation of certain civil society representatives continue to be received. Incidents of individuals photographed or otherwise placed under surveillance or whose movements and statements were recorded without their consent or on the way to United Nations meetings continued to be reported. Reports of threats against and the harassment and stigmatization of individuals and NGOs during online United Nations meetings and against those who publicly contribute to the work of the Organization or have their cases considered by United Nations bodies and mechanisms continue to be received.” Recognizing the fundamental role played by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the promotion of human rights worldwide, the Report urged the international community and member states to take necessary legal and practical measures to remove all obstacles faced by individuals and organizations in accessing the UN, both in person and online. (Report of the Secretary-General, 2022)
Sources and Further Readings:
The United Nations (September 29th, 2022), Human rights: ‘Disturbing trends’ in reprisals against those cooperating with the UN continues, UN News, retrieved on September 30th, 2022, from https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/09/1129052.
Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, A/HRC/51/47, September 14th, 2022, from https://www.ohchr.org/en/documents/thematic-reports/ahrc5147-cooperation-united-nations-its-representatives-and-mechanisms.