Reprisals | Strong and comprehensive response needed from Treaty Bodies and OHCHR

Individuals who submit individual complaints to UN human rights bodies are at risk of harassment and reprisals. Treaty Bodies and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights must make use of all relevant resources to mitigate and counter those risks. 

In an open letter endorsed by 18 human rights organisations, ISHR called on the OHCHR Unit dealing with complaints to the Treaty Bodies, as well as the Treaty Bodies themselves, to make use of protective measures  whenever they are required to protect the life and integrity of complainants. In addition, the letter calls on the OHCHR field presences to proactively follow and monitor the situation of complainants on the ground.

‘Treaty Bodies can and should request States to undertake whatever measures may be required for victims when they face harassment or reprisals as a consequence of addressing the UN,’ says Vincent Ploton, ISHR’s head of Treaty Body advocacy. ‘Protective measures are commonly used by regional mechanisms such as in the Inter-American system, where they can make a difference in providing suitable protection to the victims’.

Drawing on a case of torture by the Mexican military, the open letter welcomes steps taken by the UN Committee against Torture to request that Mexico adopt protective measures for the victims who faced a range of threats following the Committee’s ruling on their case.

‘The action taken by the Committee should inspire other UN Treaty Bodies to adopt similar protection measures,’ says ISHR’s focal point on reprisals, Tess McEvoy. ‘We welcome the fact that the OHCHR office in Mexico is actively monitoring the situation, however are concerned that Mexico has yet to comply with the measures requested by the Committee. We call on Mexico to take the measures outlined by the Committee and ensure its citizens are protected’, McEvoy concluded. 

The letter spells out a range of recommendations to the Chairs of Treaty Bodies and to the OHCHR Petitions Unit, including the following:  

  • Promptly react to allegations of human rights violation, threats or intimidation as a consequence of communications to the Treaty Body by requesting the State party to take all appropriate measures urgently
  • Request the concerned States to submit written explanations and clarifications on how the protection measures have been implemented
  • Proactively monitor the situation of petitioners, their family members and representatives alleging or facing a risk of reprisals related to the submission of their complaint, with a view to preventing and/or mitigating reprisals related to their complaint
  • Wherever possible and relevant, engage OHCHR field presences to monitor the personal situation of petitioners, their family members and representatives.

Contact: Vincent Ploton [email protected] and Tess McEvoy [email protected].

Photo: Flickr, powelli

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