Reprisals: ISHR sheds light on cases of intimidation and reprisals regarding 25 States for UN submission

On April 15 2024, ISHR submitted its annual submission to the UN Secretary General on intimidation and reprisals against defenders engaging or seeking to engage with the UN and its human rights mechanisms.

This year ISHR continues its work to bring cases of intimidation and reprisals to the attention of relevant UN officials. The 2024 Reprisals submission highlights patterns of intimidation and reprisals in 25 countries and demonstrates the need to address the weaponization of the law and arbitrary detention as a form of reprisal. 

The cases documented depict a variety of forms of reprisals, from deregistration of organizations, and systematic online, offline and judicial harassment, to travel bans, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings. 

In Bahrain, the most egregious arbitrary detentions are reported, with defenders being arbitrarily detained in full isolation and denied medical attention. Despite hunger strikes and calls from the international community, reprisals continue against them and their families. 

In Bangladesh, organizations face arbitrary deregistration and their representatives face imprisonment for spreading awareness of human rights violations. In Belarus, defenders are labelled ‘extremists’ and their rights restricted under criminal law, which ultimately leads to their arbitrary detention in poor conditions. In Cameroon, the government is reluctant to investigate cases of reprisals and intimidation against defenders. Harassment, online surveillance and enforced disappearance continue to occur in China as the government refuses to recognize human rights defenders. 

The submission also provides analysis and raises concern regarding recent negative developments, such as new legislation in Russia, which aims to criminalize defenders using vague language and expressly contemplates engagement with the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a crime. 

Other countries cited in the submission include The Bahamas, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Israel, and Morocco. The submission also provides follow-up and relevant updates on previously reported cases that remain unresolved.