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“It is time to recognize the contribution of whistleblowers” – UN expert welcomes commutation of Manning’s sentence


18 January 2017

GENEVA (18 January 2017) – The United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, welcomes the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence for leaking classified military secrets. Mr. de Zayas calls on all Governments to protect whistleblowers instead of persecuting them.

“I welcome the commutation of sentence of Chelsea Manning and her forthcoming release in May. There are, however, many whistleblowers who have served the cause of human rights and who are still in prison in many countries throughout the world. It is time to recognize the contribution of whistleblowers to democracy and the rule of law and to stop persecuting them.

I call on Governments worldwide to put an end to multiple campaigns of defamation, mobbing and even prosecution of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, the Luxleakers Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet and the tax corruption leaker Rafi Rotem, who have acted in good faith and who have given meaning to article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of expression. Whistleblowers who are serving prison sentence in many countries should be pardoned.

Whistleblowers are human rights defenders whose contribution to democracy and the rule of law cannot be overestimated. They serve democracy and human rights by revealing information that all persons are entitled to receive. A culture of secrecy is frequently also a culture of impunity. Because the right to know proclaimed in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is absolutely crucial to every democracy, whistleblowers should be protected, not persecuted.

A democratic and equitable international order can best be achieved when States give prompt and effective consideration to the findings and recommendations of international human rights mechanisms, especially those of special procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies.

Respect for human rights and human dignity must be vindicated by giving necessary protection to whistleblowers and adopting a Charter of Rights of Whistleblowers, as I proposed in my 2016 report to the United Nations General Assembly.

I urge the UK and Swedish Governments to strengthen the human rights system by giving effect to the recommendation of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. I am concerned that despite the opinion of the Working Group neither Government has taken steps toward implementation and Mr. Assange finds himself a refugee under the diplomatic protection of Ecuador.

It is time for this abnormal and inhuman situation to end.”

Mr. Alfred de Zayas (United States of America) was appointed as the first Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order by the Human Rights Council, effective May 2012. He is currently professor of international law at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Mr. de Zayas practiced corporate law and family law in New York and Florida. As a Human Rights Council’s mandate holder, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity.

The Independent Experts are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: United States

For more information and media requests, please contact Mr. Thibaut Guillet (+41 22 917 93 89 / [email protected]) or write to [email protected]

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])

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