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Reprisals against human rights defenders the focus of ISHR panel discussion
Friday, 24 September 2010 14:53

 

Just 45 minutes after ruling for the release of a man being illegally detained in Venezuela, Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni was arrested without warrant. Ms Afiuni's decision to release the captive was based on the Venezuelan criminal procedure code and on a recommendation issued by the United Nations Working Group on arbitrary detention. However, nine months later she remains incarcerated in poor conditions, accused by the Government of Venezuela of abuse of authority, corruption, complicity in prison escape and criminal conspiracy.

 

Image of panel discussion.Ms Afiuni's case was one of many examples of threats, intimidation and attacks against human rights defenders, presented by a panel of experts at an event focused on the phenomenon of reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN and its human rights bodies and mechanisms. Examples from Bahrain, Rwanda and Kenya were also highlighted.

 

These cases and others are included in the report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

 

ISHR is increasingly concerned by the phenomenon of reprisals, which is a threat to human rights and prevents the effective functioning of UN human rights mechanisms, which rely on information from civil society. A statement to the Human Rights Council by the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) outlines its position

 

The side event, hosted by ISHR with the support of other human rights organisations, took place during the Human Rights Council's 15th regular session at PaIais des Nations in Geneva. The aim of the meeting was to raise awareness of the issue of reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN, and to consider ways the Council could be more effective in addressing this serious concern.

 

Image of attendees at panel discussionRepresentatives from Hungary, Norway, Canada, USA, Poland and Ireland, along with representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and NGOs, attended the session.

 

Panellists included: Leslie Haskell, Rwandan Researcher for Human Rights Watch; Joan Nyanyuki of Independent Medico-Legal Unit (Kenya); Nabeel Rajab (via Skype), Chair of Bahrain Center for Human Rights; Carlos M. Ayala Corao, the lawyer for Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni; Bahrainian human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja; Anders Kompass from OHCHR; and Bjorn Pettersson, Director of the International Service for Human Rights.

 

Mr Pettersson said the report by the Secretary-General on the issue of reprisals, including specific cases, was presented at the 14th session of the Human Rights Council. However, since then, little has been done to address the problem and those responsible for human rights violations have not been held accountable.

 

Following presentations by the panellists of specific cases of reprisals, the discussion was opened to all attendees to raise questions and voice suggestions for more effective responses by the Council and OHCHR.

 

Important points raised included: the need for the Secretary-General's annual report on the issue to be given more visibility at Council proceedings; the importance of increasing 'follow up' to the report, since no consequences currently exist for States where reprisals are reported to have taken place; the question of what role regional human rights mechanisms and local UN country teams might play in protection of those vulnerable to reprisals; and the need to identify further protective measures.

 

The panel discussion was co-sponsored by Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Conectas Direitos Humanos, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Federation for Human Rights, Forum Asia, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights House Foundation.

Last Updated on Friday, 24 September 2010 16:11
 
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