States must ensure civil society engagement with the UN and its mechanisms without fear

Statement at the 51st Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Item 5 General Debate

Delivered by Junwoo Yang, CIVICUS

Thank you, Mr President.

We thank the Secretary-General for the important report on reprisals, which concludes that such acts seriously affects civil society actors’ cooperation with and submission of information to the United Nations.

In India, Khurram Parvez, has reportedly been subjected to travel bans, ill-treatment, arbitrary arrest and has been detained since November 2021 on trumped up counter-terrorism charges in relation to his cooperation with the UN over the years. We call for his immediate release and charged dropped.

In the Philippines, CIVICUS member Karapatan, and its Secretary-General Cristina Palabay, are longstanding inclusions on the reprisals report owing to red-tagging, harassment, arbitrary arrests and charges in connection with their engagement with the UN. While the government of the Philippines responded with allegations of false characterisation of government action, we note that the report documents that ‘Ms. Palabay continues to suffer online threats, harassment, and legal action.’

In Indonesia, Papua activist Victor Yeimo has been in detention since May 2021 in connection to his calls for self-determination of the Papuan people, including at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

We call for all States to cease acts of reprisals, including laws regulating NGOs and their access to funding, including foreign funds and donations, and imposing onerous reporting and tax requirements, which placed additional obstacles on the engagement of civil society with the UN, as we have seen in India, Russia, Zimbabwe, and numerous other countries.

We further call for States to ensure a political cost on acts of reprisal, which make the UN less responsive and less effective. It is incumbent on all States – members of this Council in particular – to ensure that civil society can engage with the UN and its mechanisms without fear.

We thank you.

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