According to a new report submitted to the Human Rights Council by UN Under-Secretary-General for Human Rights Ilze Brands Kehris on Wednesday.
Many cases were reported anonymously for fear of reprisals. There were also about 50 people who were detained, others were placed under house arrest.
Despite some pushes, Ms. Brands Kehris said the report “makes it clear” that “opportunities and intensity for intimidation and retaliation continue and are unacceptably high.”
Laws restricted from surveillance
Based on the results of the report, he highlights four main trends.
First, in almost half of the countries, individuals and groups have allegations of monitoring and surveillance, both online and offline. Numerous cases include account hacking, travel bans and other movement restrictions.
Second, a number of UN actors have addressed repeated and similar allegations of intimidation and retaliation against those raised in this and previous reports. Ms. Brands Kehris points to a possible pattern in several countries, including China, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, where victims of retaliation and intimidation are detained, as well as India, Israel, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Venezuela.
Third, he outlines limited laws, usually based on national security, including counterterrorism measures, or laws governing the activities of civil society organizations.
“Let me be clear,” said Mrs. Brands Kehris. “Claiming women’s rights in front of the UN is not an act of terrorism and talking about the rights of minorities or indigenous peoples on the UN platform is not a threat to national security.”
Fourth, and finally, he describes the “environment as increasingly challenging, or even sometimes oppressive, victimized, for human rights defenders, journalists, and other civil society actors.”
For the Assistant Secretary-General, there is a “worrying trend” where the organization is asked to report a case where the alleged victim tries to remain anonymous. Of the 240 people mentioned in the report, more than 100 were not named due to security concerns.
These victims continue to be victims of human rights abuses, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, but torture and ill-treatment, even death in custody, murder and enforced disappearances.
In the digital case, activists and journalists have been attacked on social media after speaking at UN meetings, and victims have been targeted for submitting information or communicating electronically with the organization.
Mrs Brands Kehris also cited some examples of good practice by member countries, such as a briefing of civil society in the Security Council or consideration and preparation for risks. He also described the state’s response to the allegations made to them as “encouraging”.
He said member states “should not be silenced by those who bring our critical views.”
“We need to do more to provide a safe and open space for interaction, where people can be heard without fear of retaliation,” he said.