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Press briefing note on Attacks/threats by States against UN human rights experts

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location:  Geneva
Date: 21 November 2017
Subject:   (1) Attacks/threats by States against UN human rights experts
                       
(1) Attacks/threats by States against UN human rights experts

We are concerned by continuing efforts by certain States to undermine and denigrate important mechanisms established by the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council.

Most recently, in New York, during the interactive dialogue on the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Burundi at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Ambassador of Burundi stated that the Government categorically rejected the report of the Commission of Inquiry, declaring it to be biased and politically motivated. He also threatened to “bring to justice” to the authors of the Commission’s report for defamation and attempted destabilization of Burundian institutions.

The High Commissioner has informed the Government that he finds it unacceptable that the members of a Commission mandated by the Human Rights Council are threatened with prosecution for performing the task set for them by the Council. This threat by the Government of Burundi constitutes a clear violation of article VI of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which applies to experts performing missions for the UN. He has urged the Government of Burundi to review its policy of refusing to cooperate with the independent International Commission of Inquiry and to cease threatening its members.

The High Commissioner also deplores the repeated insults and threats of physical violence against the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, by the President of the Philippines and his supporters.

Last week Mr Duterte threatened to slap Ms Callamard if she investigates him for alleged extrajudicial killings. He made the same threat against her in June after she criticised his “war on drugs” campaign which has left thousands dead.

Ms. Callamard, who has clearly been acting fully in line with her mandate when commenting on the situation in the Philippines, has also been subjected to a tirade of online abuse, including physical threats, during what appears to be a prolonged and well-orchestrated trolling operation across the internet and on social media.

This campaign, coupled with the repeated personal attacks on Ms. Callamard by President Duterte, seems to be designed to intimidate her into not carrying out the mandate bestowed on her by the Human Rights Council. We condemn this treatment of Ms. Callamard, and the disrespect it shows to the Human Rights Council that appointed her, in the strongest terms.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila Keetharuth, has also faced considerable hostility in conducting her work, including a personal attack by the Eritrean Ambassador during her interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council session in June. The Ambassador referred to her as a 'naked Empress with no clothes' and accused her of acting like a “Viceroy over Eritrea,” and carrying out a witch-hunt.

Once again, it must be stressed that Ms. Keetharuth has been faithfully carrying out the mandate given to her by the UN Human Rights Council, and she should not be subjected to this type of vitriolic personalized attack by Government officials.

All states should cooperate with the mandates established by the Council. None of them are established without good cause.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell  (+41 22 917 9466/ ethrossell@ohchr.org ) or Jeremy Laurence: + 41 22 917 9383  / jlaurence@ohchr.org

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