UN protection of individuals cooperating with its mechanisms


Geneva: UN should enhance protection of individuals cooperating with its mechanisms

The UN should take a more proactive role in the protection of individuals cooperating with its mechanisms, Ms Laetitia Bader of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) said in an intervention to the UN Human Rights Council (Council) yesterday.

In response to a report by the Secretary General on acts of intimidation and reprisals against individuals cooperating with the UN presented to the Council, EHAHRDP described how, over the course of the last year, human rights defenders engaging with a variety of UN human rights mechanisms, notably with the Universal Periodic Review and Special Procedures of the Council, in the East and Horn of Africa have faced both reprisals, in the case of the Oscar Foundation killings in Kenya, but also intimidation, notably prior to and following engagement with UN mechanisms in Ethiopia.

EHAHRDP expressed its concern that the report by the Secretary General failed to reflect the extent of these acts of intimidation and reprisals and therefore called on the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) to “raise awareness amongst key actors on the ground of the existence of the report – notably via its field offices- and establish permanent complaint mechanisms, in order to ensure systematic documentation of such incidents”.

Stressing that more often than not state authorities are the very perpetrators of these acts, and are often unwilling or unable to protect those at risk or to ensure that those responsible for reprisals are held to account, EHAHRDP questioned the overreliance in the report’s recommendations on the relevant authorities to offer protection to individuals at risk of intimidation or reprisals.

Ms Bader therefore called on the UN as a whole and the Human Rights Council in particular to take this reality into account and to take a more proactive role: “the Council should ensure that it takes the lead by dedicating a permanent slot within the Council agenda to discussing the report on reprisals and guarantee follow-up on all cases. Furthermore, the Council Presidency should systematically seek to raise the political costs of attacks on individuals cooperating with UN mechanisms by responding in a public manner to such acts”.

For more information please do not hesitate to contact Ms. Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Officer at EHAHRDP on + 41 76 203 0261 or Mr. Hassan Shire Sheikh, Executive
Director of EHAHRDP on +41 79 33 75 8 75.


Human Rights Defender of the month: Veronica Almedom

Veronica Almedom is a poster child of successful immigration. A duo Eritrean and Swiss citizen, she was born in Italy, and grew up in Switzerland where she permanently resides. Her parents are some of the earliest victims of Eritrea’s cycles of violence. When Eritrea’s war of independence peaked in the early 1980s, they escaped the country as unaccompanied minors, wandering through Sudan, Saudi Arabia, before making the hazard journey across the Mediterranean into Europe. There, they crossed first to Italy, and finally, to Switzerland, where they settled first as refugees, and later, as permanent residents.