ISHR participates in panel discussion on reprisals with the UN Secretary-General
Thursday, 20 October 2011 13:35


The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) participated in a high-level panel discussion on ‘Stopping reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations in the field of human rights’ in New York on Friday 21 October, 2011.


The panel discussion can be viewed online on the the UN webcast here.


Participants at the significant side-event included Mr Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General; Ms Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Ambassador Klara Breuer, Chief of Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary; Ms Mehr Khan Williams, Chair of the Board of ISHR; Mrs Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.


The event was organised by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with the support of the Government of Hungary. It took place at UN headquarters in New York.


Ensuring free and safe civil society access to the UN by preventing reprisals against those that cooperate with the UN human rights system has been a priority concern for ISHR in recent years.


Chair of the ISHR Board, Mehr Kahn Williams says ISHR has a mandate to empower human rights defenders to engage with the UN system, and to ensure that the system itself is as accessible and effective for defenders as possible.


‘Human Rights Council Resolution 12/2 from 2009 acknowledges that reprisals and any acts of intimidation, harassment or violence, severely restrict the ability of defenders to cooperate with the United Nations system,’ the former Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights says.


‘ISHR believes that reprisals and intimidation not only hinder the effective working of the United Nations human rights system and obstruct justice, they are in the first instance serious violations of the human rights of individuals. It is important to protect defenders by working on both prevention and on State accountability.’


ISHR has collaborated closely on the issue with the Human Rights Council, with NGOs, and with OHCHR. It has also undertaken targeted advocacy with members of the Human Rights Council and its President.


ISHR Director, Mr Bjorn Pettersson says it is unacceptable that the work, physical integrity and the lives of those who provide the UN with necessary information and expertise are put at risk, and the increasing attention being paid to the issue is long overdue.


‘Imagine an OHCHR field presence that doesn’t have a working relationship with civil society because people are too afraid to share information due to possible reprisals; or a Special Procedures mandate holder who cannot get civil society to meet with him or her during a country visit. Such a system would quickly become irrelevant.


‘Preventing reprisals and safeguarding free and genuine civil society cooperation is essential to the survival of the UN human rights system,’ he says.




Last Updated on Thursday, 02 February 2012 11:41
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