New paper provides first systematic analysis of UN Special Rapporteur's communications on human rights defenders

Author: Janika Spannagel, Global Public Policy Institute (Germany), Published on: 31 January 2018

"Chasing Shadows: UN Communications on Human Rights Defenders", 24 January 2018

Each year, the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders receives a large number of submissions regarding individual cases of concern. Only a fraction of these cases are addressed by the rapporteur’s communications procedure. Nobody can determine with certainty how many cases have fallen through the cracks...[T]his policy paper provides the first systematic analysis of all communications sent out to date. It finds credible indications that communications have a positive impact, but also demonstrates that there is room for improvement...The consequences of case selection, whether according to explicitly stated rules or implicitly applied criteria, are quite significant. Currently, only 550 individual cases can be addressed by the mandate each year...The policy paper advocates an approach that aims to maximize the potential impact on the individual defender while systematically striving for a balanced documentation of cases...[T]he paper recommends that the use of joint special procedures communications should be the exception rather than the rule, that states’ replies to cases should be systematically monitored and the respective data publicly released, and that more concerted international action should be taken with regards to ‘softer’ forms of repression.

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