Posts Tagged ‘Financial Times’

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:

…..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:


China and its amazing sensitivity on Human Rights Defenders

December 6, 2012

Most of you are aware that a group of 134 Nobel laureates wrote to Chinese Communist Party chief and future president, Xi Jinping, urging him to release Liu, who won the peace prize two years ago (and to release his wife). China of course maintains that Liu is a criminal and decries such criticism as unwarranted interference in its internal affairs. Remarkable is that Mo, the first Chinese national to win the $1.2 million literature prize – in Stockholm to receive the award – refused to express support for Liu, and defended censorship as sometimes necessary, comparing it to security checks at airports. “I have said this prize is about literature. Not for politics,” said the 57-year-old whose adopted pen name Mo Yan means “don’t speak”[!!].

Now the latest twist according to the Financial Times of 6 December 2012 is that China has excluded Norway – as the only European country – from its visa-free regime for visitors.  When asked why Norway was left off the list, Wang Qin, a senior official at the Beijing government travel administration, did not respond directly but said that some countries were not eligible because their citizens or government were “of low-quality” and “badly behaved”.

Chinese-Norwegian ties have been in diplomatic deep freeze ever since imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Immediately afterwards, Beijing suspended negotiations with Oslo over a bilateral free trade agreement and those talks have not yet resumed in spite of the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five individuals appointed by the Norwegian parliament and that Government has no say in the selection (although it is true that committee members always are Norwegian nationals). China has refused visas to many Norwegian journalists, scientists and businesspeople and cancelled numerous political and diplomatic meetings. According to the same FT article earlier this year senior Chinese diplomats insisted Norway must “recognise its mistakes and take steps to correct them” and Norwegian exports have been affected.

The continued harsh treatment of Norway is a signal that when it comes to human rights China remains extra-ordinarily sensitive. One can only hope that the other (European) will show that they will be not intimidated and show solidarity with Norway e.g. by refusing the visa free offer unless Norway is included.