UN Human Rights Council must protect human rights defenders from reprisals
Human rights defenders, including several Right Livelihood Laureates, are facing mounting challenges and pressures for their work, we warned the UN Human Rights Council, asking the Council to reflect on what it can do to “better address the dramatic shrinking space for civil society.”
Speaking at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, we drew attention to reprisals against human rights defenders, which can even prevent them from engaging with UN and other international mechanisms.
In particular, we highlighted 2019 Laureate Aminatou Haidar of Western Sahara, who had been subjected to unlawful digital surveillance with her devices infected with Pegasus spyware in Oct and Nov 2021.
In Belarus, six members of 2020 Laureate organisation Human Rights Centre “Viasna” remain imprisoned. One of them, Marfa Rabkova, was recently sentenced to 15 years, which is the longest politically motivated sentence ever handed down to a woman in Belarus.
In Russia, the so-called “Foreign Agent Law” aimed to restrict civil society voices was used to shut down 2004 Laureate organisation Memorial. The law has now been further expanded in its scope, making virtually anyone engaging with the UN at risk of being labelled as a foreign agent.
In Saudi Arabia, 2018 Laureates Waleed Abu al-Khair and Mohammed al-Qahtani remain in prison simply for exercising their fundamental rights.