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Acts of intimidation and reprisal for cooperation with the special procedures

Addressing acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who seek to cooperate, cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations in the field of human rights is a priority for special procedures. They have consistently raised their concerns about this unacceptable practice individually and as a system. Special procedures not only address allegations of acts of intimidation and reprisal in relation to cooperation with them but with the wider United Nations system, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.

As a result of the growing attention given to this phenomenon and the increasing instances of intimidation and reprisals observed by mandate holders, they agreed during the 22nd Annual Meeting of Special Procedures, held in June 2015, to consolidate and enhance special procedures' response to this unacceptable practice by establishing a coherent framework for action, the main points of which can be found below.

Definition of acts of intimidation and reprisal

Based on Human Rights Council resolutions 12/2 and 24/24, acts of intimidation and reprisal are defined as:

All acts of intimidation or reprisal against those who:
(a) Seek to cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, or who have provided testimony or information to them;
(b) Avail or have availed themselves of procedures established under the auspices of the United Nations for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and all those who have provided legal or other assistance to them for this purpose;
(c) Submit or have submitted communications under procedures established by human rights instruments, and all those who have provided legal or other assistance to them for this purpose;
(d) Are relatives of victims of human rights violations or of those who have provided legal or other assistance to victims.

Based on this definition, reprisals may concern not only human rights defenders and civil society, but affect any individual cooperating with the special procedures, including individuals or groups that met with mandate holders, including during their country visits, submitted information to special procedures or provided legal or other assistance, relatives of victims of human rights violations and staff of national human rights institutions or national preventative mechanisms.

Special Procedures framework on addressing reprisals

Special procedures rely on a variety of actions when faced with cases of intimidation and reprisals. These include confidential and public actions, such as meeting with Government officials, sending communications to States and other stakeholders, raising the case with United Nations representatives in the field and at headquarters, including the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner and the President of the Human Rights Council, raising the case in public statements, press releases, reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, or during their interactive dialogues with these two bodies. These options are considered on a case by case basis, always with the consent of the persons concerned and in line with the principle of “do no harm”.

The adopted framework for action by mandate holders on alleged acts of intimidation and reprisal, which has as its main purpose to enhance and systematise the response of the special procedures system as a whole, strengthens mandate holders’ ability to provide a systematic and coordinated response to this phenomenon, inter alia, with following actions:

Coordination Committee of Special Procedures

- The Coordination Committee will appoint a focal point on reprisals among its members on an annual basis.

- The Coordination Committee will keep a comprehensive record of all cases of intimidation and reprisals against individuals and groups cooperating with special procedures.

- The Coordination Committee will continue to raise the issue of reprisals systematically within the United Nations system, inter alia with the President of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General.

- When necessary and in consultation with the mandate holder(s) concerned, the Coordination Committee may take additional action such as contacting the State or stakeholder concerned, issuing a press statement, etc.

Mandate holders

- When faced with cases of alleged acts of intimidation or reprisal, mandate holders will take appropriate action in line with the principle of do no harm, including by systematically informing the Coordination Committee focal point on reprisals and by consulting various relevant stakeholders as necessary. Depending on the specificities of the case, appropriate action could also include contacting relevant authorities, sending communications, issuing press releases, referring to the case in their reports, and informing the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and/or the President of the Human Rights Council.

- When necessary, cooperation with other human rights mechanisms at the international or regional level will be sought, including through cross-referencing.

Special Procedures system

- The Annual Report of special procedures will contain a section on reprisals which will reflect the main concerns of and actions taken by special procedures over the past year.

- Special procedures will continue to use all opportunities to reaffirm the crucial importance of cooperation with all stakeholders concerned in the discharge of their mandate and of ensuring that such cooperation can take place freely and safely.

- Special procedures will continue to call for the designation by the Secretary General of a United Nations senior focal point on reprisals. Once established, special procedures will cooperate closely with him or her to ensure a unified United Nations wide response to acts of intimidation and reprisal.

- Special procedures will review regularly their response to acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights, in particular special procedures and will revise the established framework as necessary.

Relevant links:

Secretary-General reports based on HRC resolution 12/2

  • 2016 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/33/19)
  • 2015 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/30/29)
  • 2014 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/27/38)
  • 2013 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/24/29 and A/HRC/24/29/Corr.1)
  • 2012 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/21/18)
  • 2011 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/18/19)
  • 2010 report of the Secretary-General on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights (A/HRC/14/19)

Human Rights Council

  • Human Rights Council resolution 12/2
  • HRC resolution 24/24

Special Procedures

Treaty Bodies