Andrew Gilmour in the Financial Times about reprisals

December 10, 2019

On the occasion of International Human Rights Day 2019, Andrew Gilmour – the UN assistant secretary-general for human rights – wrote an opinion piece in the Financial Times stressing that the UN must protect human rights defenders from government reprisals against them….

Within the global movement, it’s widely accepted that the onslaught on the human rights agenda is more ferocious now than ever before. ……..We estimate that, around the world, several hundred people have been punished for co-operating with the UN since 2016 when I was assigned responsibility for dealing with this issue. Reprisals can take many forms — I’ve been presented with countless stories of travel restriction, threats from security agents, internet abuse, arrest, imprisonment and even torture, rape, disappearance and killing. The aim is punishment and/or deterrence. And it often works. Despite the staggering courage of many human rights defenders, who persist in exposing violations notwithstanding their knowledge of the likely consequences, others understandably self-censor their actions and words.

For his annual report see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/09/23/andrew-gilmours-2019-report-on-reprisals-it-gets-worse-but-response-remains-mostly-rhetoric/

…..Even though reprisals appear to be on the rise, however, there are grounds for optimism. More countries now take the issue seriously. They condemn such acts and warn against the scope of the problem, which many recognise has an impact on the global discourse on any matter related to human rights — development, the environment, protection of civilians in conflict settings and even preventing terrorism. When people are cowed into silence, governments and inter-governmental organisations are deprived of the full picture, and that makes their actions in any of these spheres less effective. Increased awareness that there is a growing problem with intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders is vital. But so is the courage to speak out on behalf of the victims of such actions, even if the perpetrators are hugely powerful, such as the Chinese authorities, whose efforts to silence almost anyone from speaking out are often draconian and can extend even into UN headquarters. There are many brave people who are ready to withstand the threats of their own governments and provide information to the UN, even when the price for doing so can be horrific. Surely everyone at the world body, starting with its member states, has a moral obligation to show at least a fraction of that courage and speak up in defence of those beleaguered front-line defenders. Such is the nature of the governments that carry out most reprisals that only a firm international response of solidarity can have any chance of halting this ominous trend.

For some of my other posts on reprisals see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/

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https://www.ft.com/content/e339fe22-1a66-11ea-81f0-0c253907d3e0

One Response to “Andrew Gilmour in the Financial Times about reprisals”


  1. […] The rights of women and gays are also at stake, Gilmour said. He said nationalist authoritarian populist leaders such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have made “derogatory comments” about both groups. He said the U.S. is “aggressively pushing” back against women’s reproductive rights both at home and abroad. The result, he said, is that countries fearful of losing U.S. aid are cutting back their work on women’s rights. Gilmour also pointed out a report issued in September that cited 48 countries for punishing human rights defenders who have cooperated with the U.N. [See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/10/andrew-gilmour-in-the-financial-times-about-reprisals/%5D […]


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