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United Nations31.03.2008

UN Human Rights Council turns special rapporteur on free expression into prosecutor

Reporters Without Borders condemns the change to the mandate of the special rapporteur on the protection of the right to freedom of expression that was made by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The rapporteur is now supposed to investigate abuses of the right of freedom of expression.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the change to the mandate of the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression that was made by the United Nations Human Rights Council at the end of its seventh session on 28 March. The rapporteur is now supposed to investigate abuses of the right of freedom of expression.

“As we have been repeating for the nearly two years since its creation, the UN Human Rights Council is far from being up to the job it has been given,” the press freedom organisation said. “The change to the mandate of the special rapporteur on free expression is dramatic. It turns someone who is supposed to defend freedom of opinion into a prosecutor whose job is to go after those who abuse this freedom.

“There are other mechanisms for condemning racist attacks or defamation by the media. It is not the rapporteur on free expression’s job to do this. It is like asking the rapporteur on freedom of religion to investigate human rights abuses committed in the name of religion. Such reasoning is absurd.

“The growing influence of Organisation of the Islamic Conference member states within the Human Rights Council is disturbing. All of the council’s decisions are nowadays determined by the interests of the Muslim countries or powerful states such as China or Russia that know how to surround themselves with allies. The UN secretary-general should intervene as quickly as possible.”

“The mandates of the special rapporteurs on Cuba and Belarus, two of the world’s worst press freedom predators, were not renewed in May 2007,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “Last week it was Democratic Republic of Congo’s turn to get rid of its special human rights rapporteur. It is deplorable that these countries, in which serious human rights violations are committed every day, are no longer subject to closing monitoring and criticism by the UN.”

The change to the special rapporteur on free expression’s mandate was approved by 32 of the UN Human Rights Council’s 47 member states. Those that opposed the change included EU member states, Canada, Switzerland and some Latin American countries.