Statement to HRC on Preventing and Responding to Reprisals

Delivered by Ms. Rachel Nicholson, Advocacy Officer, 18th September 2013

Preventing and responding to reprisals

Thank you Mr President. The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project recognizes with appreciation the increased attention that has been paid to the issue of reprisals and intimidation against individuals and groups on the grounds of their cooperation with the UN human rights system, and steps already taken within the UN and by members of this Council to address the issue. However, much more needs to be done before “all individuals participating in [the Council’s] meetings and cooperating with it remain secure.”[1]

The report and recommendations coming out of the panel discussion on reprisals in September 2012 has been welcomed by members of this Council and by the Secretary-General as a useful roadmap for further action on the issue. We believe that the appointment of a UN-wide focal point to lead this action is essential so timely and concrete progress may be made. Important progress has already been made, for example by the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture, in incorporating the reprisals issue into the work of the UN human rights system. A focal point would help to mainstream these efforts and could also liaise with counterparts in the regional human rights systems, where the issue of reprisals is also a threat to their work.

EHAHRDP is deeply disappointed by the lack of effective follow-up to the majority of cases from the East and Horn of Africa that have been included in past reports, namely in Rwanda, Sudan and Kenya. Oscar Kamau Kingara and John Paul Oulu were killed soon after they met with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions in 2009. Over four years on, no progress has been seen on the investigations.

Such egregious crimes – and indeed assaults on the human rights work of the UN – cannot be allowed to slip off the agenda. We support the recommendation for OHCHR to create a central database on reprisals cases to ensure continued monitoring and to enable a fully informed and regular debate at the Council. Final responsibility for preventing and responding to reprisals lies, however, with States, who must ensure that perpetrators of reprisals are held to account.

I thank you.

[1] Summary of the Human Rights Council panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, A/HRC/22/34

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