Potential reprisals you might face when working with UN human rights mechanisms and how you can plan for and mitigate such risks
This section highlights the risks that defenders can face from interacting with the UN human rights mechanisms, and sets out some questions for defenders to consider as they assess the level of risk, and consequently whether or not to engage with the UN.
It is important to note that the considerations and suggestions set out below are not comprehensive. This assessment should be undertaken in conjunction with a more comprehensive security plan.
Defenders should be fully aware that, as important as it is to pursue international and regional human rights work, doing so could increase their exposure to significant danger. Because the UN system in particular can seem remote, there is perhaps a tendency to underestimate the risks that can be faced from engaging with it. Those seeking to engage with the UN should be aware of the importance some States place on being able to control what information is heard in international and regional fora, and therefore of the potential risks associated with that engagement. The following sections explain the nature of these risks and point to resources to help you respond to the dangers.
Learn about reprisals, in particular the potential risks facing human rights defenders when they cooperate, or attempt to cooperate, with UN human rights mechanisms. This video features the personal accounts of defenders detailing the plight of targeted individuals who face life-altering consequences after cooperating with the UN.
It would be extremely detrimental to the effective functioning of regional and UN human rights systems if, as a result of the risks faced, human rights defenders avoided interacting with them. Defenders have crucial information regarding human rights situations on the ground, and international and regional mechanisms depend on that knowledge and input to make informed decisions.
There are unfortunately cases where State institutions are simply unable, willfully neglectful, or deliberately obstructive when it comes to ensuring that defenders can cooperate safely with UN and regional human rights bodies. In those situations, defenders who dare to speak out face heightened risk of retaliation or reprisals. Reprisals can include travel bans, stalking, personal threats or threats against the family, detainment and in many cases, even conviction.
Think about the UN mechanism you are considering engaging with, and consider:
If it’s too dangerous, don’t do it. Remember that the decision of whether or not to engage has to take into account the potential impact on others – it’s not just about whether the risk to yourself is one you’re willing to take.