Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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UN Human Rights Council – 21st Session

Panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the

UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights

Statement by Australia, 13 September 2012

Australia welcomes the report of the Secretary General which highlights the extreme seriousness of the issue of reprisals against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the UN in the field of human rights. Australia sees the role of human rights defenders as central to the functioning of a healthy civil society environment.

Threats of reprisals or intimidation of human rights defenders strike at the very heart of the credibility of member states’ engagement with the UN human rights system, including in the Universal Periodic Review process.

Australia shares the view that acts of intimidation or reprisal against those who cooperate or seek the assistance of the OHCHR constitute an attempt to compromise the human rights mandate of the UN. It undermines everything the international human rights system is seeking to achieve. In this regard, we note with concern the specific cases mentioned in report of the Secretary General, particularly those involving individuals cooperating or appearing before UN human rights bodies. In this context we emphasise the importance of protecting the rights of those human rights defenders who attend this Council and seek to participate in its work, including in the universal periodic review process.

We join the President of the Human Rights Council in condemning acts of intimidation and harassment and agree that the Universal Periodic Review mechanism is a useful avenue to address allegations of reprisals in a robust and consistent manner.

Australia joins the call to develop a coherent and unified response to combat reprisals and will work with others in the international community to devise strong protection measures to protect human rights defenders and civil society groups where the State has failed to meet its obligations and responsibilities.

Australia would like to seek the panellists’ views on how the UPR process could be used to strengthen protection for human rights defenders facing acts of intimidation or reprisal?