Dr. Yang Jianli presents award to Mr. Dhondup Wangchen at UN Watch’s Geneva Summit on March 26, 2019. The two men, both former political prisoners in China now living in the United States, were told that they could not enter UN premises without a passport.

GENEVA, May 7, 2019 — The Geneva-based non-governmental organization UN Watch today filed a complaint with UN chief Antonio Guterres regarding an apparent new UN rule that effectively bars human rights dissidents from speaking at the United Nations. (See text of complaint below; PDF here.)

According to officers at the accreditation desk at the UN Office at Geneva, a new rule requires UN visitors to have passports from a UN Member State, rather than another form of identification as was previously allowed.

UN Watch’s complaint calls on Guterres to reinstate the UN’s former practice.

The organization became aware of the new practice when two of its guests—former political prisoners in China who now reside in the United States—were informed by the UN accreditation desk in Geneva that they could not enter the premises without a passport from a UN member state. As political dissidents who have fled from China, the visitors did not have valid passports from the country.

According to UN Watch’s executive director Hillel Neuer, the policy change is particularly worrisome because dissidents who flee their home countries due to persecution are often not issued passports from their countries of refuge but are rather issued other valid forms of identification.

“The ability of these brave men and women to spotlight human rights abuses in their home countries—committed by regimes which in many cases sit on the UN Human Rights Council—is critical to the functioning of the UN human rights system,” he said.

By preventing voices of dissent from speaking, the rule empowers oppressive regimes to control the narrative on their human rights situations at the UN, according to Neuer.

“Any rule which effectively prevents dissidents from entering the UN and participating in human rights proceedings violates their right to freedom of expression—which is typically suppressed in their countries of origin—and hinders the human rights work of the UN,” said Neuer.

Letter from UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer to 
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, 7 May 2019

Dear Secretary-General Guterres,

We are deeply concerned about an apparent new UN rule that effectively bars human rights dissidents from speaking at the United Nations.

At an event that we hosted for human rights dissidents last month at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, two of our invited speakers, Mr. Dhondup Wangchen and Dr. Yang Jianli—former political prisoners in China now resident in the United States—were informed by the UN registration desk that they could not enter the premises without a passport from a UN Member State. When Dr. Yang noted that on multiple prior occasions he had been accredited without the passport of any country, but rather with other valid ID, the officer said the rules have recently been changed.

As you may know, dissidents are often forced to flee their home countries due to persecution for their human rights activism. Those governments typically deny the dissidents a passport. Once the dissidents have found a country of refuge, they will often be issued travel documents from that government—but not a passport. What this means is that the most compelling human rights witnesses in the world—dissidents who recently fled authoritarian regimes—typically have no valid passport.

The ability of these brave men and women to spotlight human rights abuses in their home countries—committed by regimes which in many cases sit on the UN Human Rights Council—is critical to the functioning of the UN human rights system. Any rule which effectively prevents dissidents from entering the UN and participating in human rights proceedings violates their right to freedom of expression—which is typically suppressed in their countries of origin—and hinders the human rights work of the UN.

We urge you to confirm that the UN will not require a country passport for accreditation to UN meetings, and will instead continue its previous policy of accepting other valid forms of identification.

Sincerely,

Hillel C. Neuer
Executive Director

Author

unwatch

Related Posts