Secretary-General report highlights threats human rights defenders face while working with the UPR

In his annual report "Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights" to be adopted at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlights threats and intimidations that some human rights defenders are facing when working on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The Secretary-General cites the case of Bahrain where "according to information received, reprisals against human rights defenders took place in the context of the universal periodic review of Bahrain on 21 May 2012. Reportedly, a number of Bahraini newspapers, including El Watan and the Gulf Daily News published articles labelling human rights defenders in Geneva who had provided information for the consideration of Bahrain in the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review as "traitors". Individuals who had been present at the universal periodic review session were described as the "disloyal bunch" whose mission it was to "tarnish Bahrain's reputation". [...] Reportedly, the Ministry of Interior of Bahrain stated on 26 May 2012 that those returning from Geneva may be investigated for having slandered their country. One prominent lawyer and human rights defender was subjected to a smear campaign upon his return to Bahrain from the session of the Working Group. Another human rights defender was injured by riot police while peacefully demonstrating in Bahrain; allegedly he was targeted because of his previous attendance at the universal periodic review session."

He also gives an update regarding the case of "Pascal Nyilibakwe, Executive Secretary of the Rwandan section of the Human Rights League of the Great Lakes, referred to in [his] 2011 report" who was "forced to flee Rwanda as a result of a campaign of threats and harassment against him, allegedly linked to his role as Executive Secretary of his organization", the Human Rights League of the Great Lakes, which was "involved in preparing the civil society report under the universal periodic review process of Rwanda". Currently, Mr. Nyilibakwe "remains outside Rwanda" and his organisation "continues to face administrative difficulties in Rwanda which stem from harassment in 2010 and 2011, including delayed renewal of the organization's NGO registration, which expired in April 2011."

In his conclusions, the Secretary-General emphasises the "invaluable work" that human rights defenders are carrying out while "deeply [regretting] the lack of accountability in relation to the majority of reported cases of reprisals." He also brings his support to "the stance taken by the President of the Human Rights Council in condemning acts of intimidation and harassment and [urges] the Bureau and members of the Council to continue to address allegations of reprisals in a robust and consistent manner" and believes that "the universal periodic review mechanism [could] provide a useful avenue in this regard".

Finally, he concludes that "tailored responses to reprisals, including public statements [...] could be further developed in order to create a coherent and unified response to combat reprisals."

On 13 September from 12 to 3pm, the HRC will hold a "Panel on Cooperation with UN HR mechanisms: issues of intimidation or reprisals".