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Addressing and preventing acts of intimidation and reprisals against individuals and groups seeking to cooperate with the United Nations on human rights has been a long-standing priority for the UN. Over the past years, the reported number and severity of intimidation and reprisals have increased.

Examples of intimidation and reprisals

They take on different forms, from travel bans, threats and harassment, including by officials, smear campaigns, surveillance, introduction of restrictive legislation, to physical attacks, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, denial of access to medical attention and even killings.  

Who is impacted?

Based on the mandate given to the Secretary-General to report on this issue annually to the Human Rights Council (see resolutions 12/224/24, 36/21 and 42/28), States are urged to prevent and refrain from all acts of intimidation and reprisal against those who:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. Are relatives of victims of human rights violations or of those who have provided legal or other assistance to victims.

Based on this definition, all those cooperating with the UN – human rights activists, community workers, lawyers, journalists, national human rights institutions and government officials – or helping others cooperate are potential targets. The victims may include not just the person targeted, but their representatives, families, friends and anyone else linked to them.