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Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Informal briefing to the Human Rights Council: Statement by Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights on the issue of reprisals

ASG Andrew Gilmour speaking to Human Rights Council on reprisals

30 November 2016

Allow me now to deliver a few remarks about reprisals. At the beginning of October, the Secretary-General announced here in Geneva that, after consultations with the High Commissioner, he had asked me to lead the efforts within the UN system to put a stop to intimidation and reprisals against those cooperating with the UN on human rights. The growing number of reprisals against people cooperating with us is indeed a deep concern and the UN owes them its best possible support. My designation was a response to this compelling need, and demonstrates that reprisals are a UN wide concern.

Geneva has played a leading role in drawing attention to this issue and keeping it on the agenda. It is my intention to work closely with all of you to ensure the success of this mandate. I am grateful to those Member States who have already made contact with me to share their views, and look forward to being in touch with many others.
In my future work I intend to focus on three main areas.


Firstly, step up the UN response to reprisals. We aim to strengthen our collective action against reprisals and to make it more visible. This means standardizing the way we approach intimidation and reprisals, including our response on specific issues. It also means reinforcing coordination and cooperation with counterparts across the UN system.

Secondly, constructive engagement. These efforts will only be successful if they are developed through constructive engagement with all stakeholders, including civil society but also, in particular, Member States, as you are best placed to prevent and react to reprisals if they occur. Thus we will maintain a constant dialogue with States on this issue.

Thirdly, cooperation with all actors involved. My work will be fully integrated into ongoing efforts on reprisals. Currently, many actors are engaged in responding to reprisals, including the Human Rights Council – especially its President –and human rights mechanisms.My main objective will be to avoid duplication but to consolidate and build up the work already done, and ensure close cooperation with these actors.

We on this podium are all convinced that by working together, and by giving reprisals the attention they deserve, we will be able to make a difference and help to end the terrible practice whereby human rights defenders are sometimes punished for cooperating with the mechanisms established by UN Member States. We very much look forward to working with you in this area.