Summary: UN adopts policy to combat reprisals and intimidation against promoters of human rights

Geneva, 26th June 2015: A group of UN bodies responsible for monitoring human rights has adopted a policy to combat intimidation and reprisals, known as the San Jose Guidelines. They have agreed to implement the Guidelines following sustained advocacy and submissions by various groups including SRT grantee International Service for Human Rights (ISHR). This is in response to cases of intimidation and reprisals arising in the context of their work reviewing various countries’ human rights records.

Madeleine Sinclair, program manager and legal counsel at ISHR, said “Human rights defenders and others who provide information and testimony to the treaty bodies continue to be subject to threats. These Guidelines mark a potentially important contribution to ensuring that defenders can access and communicate safely with the treaty bodies, free from attacks and reprisals, and to ensuring that States are held to account when such incidents occur.”

The Guidelines build on a number of policies already devised by individual UN treaty bodies and emphasise the responsibility of States to avoid acts of intimidation or reprisals and to protect those who become a victim for seeking to cooperate with such bodies. The Guidelines themselves speak of the treaty bodies’ “uncompromising stance against reprisals and their increasing efforts and commitment to prevent them” as well as the underlying responsibility of States to “prevent, protect against, investigate and ensure accountability and to provide effective remedies to victims of such acts or omissions.”

The Guidelines envision proactive, reactive and preventative measures, and they provide for the appointment of a focal point in each treaty body to coordinate implementation of the policy. “We urge all treaty bodies to appoint focal points and begin implementing the Guidelines without delay”, Ms Sinclair said. “ISHR welcomes the adoption of these important Guidelines, which recognize the primary duty of the State to prevent and ensure accountability for reprisals but also the obligations of the UN to protect those who contribute to its important work.”

ISHR full report:

Return to grantee stories