The European Union would like to reiterate our support for the work of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights with regards to reprisals, and takes note of the report of the Secretary-General.
The EU expects all states to respect and protect persons, in particular civil society and human rights defenders, cooperating with the UN System, and we condemn any form of intimidation, harassment and reprisals in this regard, both offline and online.
Support to human rights defenders and civil society organisations is a major priority of the EU's external policy. In particular, the EU will remain committed towards sharpening both preventive and reactive means to protect Human Rights Defenders, notably those working on land rights, environment, rights of indigenous peoples, persons belonging to minorities, as well as other Human Rights Defenders in vulnerable situations, including LGBTI human rights defenders.
The EU condemns the intimidation, harassments and reprisals described in the report in the strongest of terms, highlighting the findings that these practices have a disproportionate impact on certain groups, such as women human rights defenders and peacebuilders, youth, indigenous peoples and minorities, and the important recommendation of the report to encourage continued efforts towards gender sensitive documentation and reporting.
The EU notes with great concern the other findings in the report including "the use of national security arguments and legislation and of counter-terrorism strategies by States as justification for blocking access to, or punishment for engaging with, the United Nations". As the report concludes, repressive or restrictive environments, which have led to concrete acts inhibiting cooperation with the United Nations, including self-censorship, continue to be documented and reported.
We underscore that acts of intimidation or reprisal carried out against any individual or group are unacceptable and should be promptly and impartially investigated to ensure accountability and effective remedies and that steps should be taken to prevent violations. Impunity is not an option. The EU would like to highlight that national security or counter-terrorism measures shall not be used in contravention of international law, including international human rights law. We also recall that members elected to the Human Rights Council shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. This includes protecting individuals from intimidations and reprisals.
Ms Brands Kehris,
The report touches upon the increasing use of online working methods by the UN as a result of the pandemic. Digital technology allows civil society organisations to engage in UN fora and organise despite of travel restrictions. However, new technologies can also lead to increased surveillance, tracking, digital reprisals, such as hate speech, disinformation and hacking, as well as intimidations and reprisals offline.
Could you please share your views on steps that States can take to ensure that participation in the online space remains meaningful, effective, easily accessible, and free from intimidation or reprisals of any sort?