GENEVA, March 5, 2021 — The spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denied that the world body handed over names of Chinese dissidents to Beijing, and said that no harm ever came to them. However, a whistleblower who exposed the practice is completely rejecting the UN’s claims.
In a press briefing yesterday (see below), UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric claimed accusations that the UN human rights office handed names to China “are not true,” that “at no time has any activist been placed at risk,” and that “from 2015, the office ceased providing confirmation that individuals were accredited to attend sessions.”
(“Confirmation” is the UN’s misleading euphemism for its practice of informing China which human rights defenders were registered to attend upcoming UN sessions; Beijing otherwise didn’t know who was attending, so the UN was not “confirming” anything, they were handing over names.)
Emma Reilly, a human rights lawyer at the UN Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) — who was punished for trying to stop the practice of putting Chinese dissidents at risk, and who eventually went public about it — issued a statement today rejecting the UN denial. See below.
Statement by UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric
UN Daily Press Briefing, March 4, 2021
Journalist Célhia de Lavarène: Stéphane, a woman named Emma Reilly, who works for the Office the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and is a human rights lawyer, has repeatedly alleged that the human rights office in Geneva shared the name of Chinese opponents with the Government… China’s Government, and she said that this is the only exception that the UN has made. Is that true?
UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric: No. We don’t agree with her description of our policies. Contrary to her claims, at no time has any activist been placed at risk by the human rights office’s practices of responding to inquiries from Member States requesting for confirmation of the names of activists accredited to attend the Human Rights Council sessions.
Since the start of the Human Rights Council in 2006, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stopped providing lists of those accredited to attend.
Instead, in response to specific inquiries from Member States regarding names of individuals, the Office confirmed the names of well‑known people for whom confirmation of their names presented no additional risk, given that they were already in the public domain.
From 2015, given the limited nature of the practice, the Office ceased providing confirmation to Member States that individuals were accredited to attend sessions.
Statement by Whistleblower Emma Reilly
March 5, 2021
This response is laughable. The UN spokesperson is lying. Last week, he said the UN human rights office (OHCHR) “never” handed any names to the Chinese government. I posted proof online, so now he admits it.
If, as he now claims, this stopped in 2015, why did OHCHR say it was ongoing in a 2017 press release and in 2019 court hearings?
Why has the UN refused to allow any investigation since I first reported it in 2013?
Why did the UN remove the judge who heard my cases without any notice before he could publish his judgement? These are not the actions of an organization with nothing to hide.
The spokesperson rehashes old lies even the UN’s lawyers were forced to abandon in court.
First, this is an exceptional policy, only for China. And the Chinese government asked precisely because it did not know who was coming.
The activists provided witness testimony against the UN. Dolkun Isa contradicted these lies, confirming “our NGO did not release the names of individuals who would be attending the 2013 Human Rights Council ahead of the event… At no point… were we informed by OHCHR that the Chinese Government had been informed that we would be attending the Council session.”
How can the spokesperson claim a press release that does not contain any names somehow put them in the “public domain”?
The written evidence is clear. OHCHR decided to give names to China to avoid exacerbating “Chinese mistrust.”
The UN argument was and remains that a list that is never published is somehow public weeks in advance, so all requested names had to be handed over. This argument was repeated in court.
Emails reveal the real security risk that was evaluated: the alleged risk posed by the activists, not the real risk posed by the Chinese government.
But the cover-up is really about the fact that the UN human rights office deliberately placed dissidents and their families at risk, and OHCHR knows it.
Instead of correcting complicity in human rights violations, OHCHR has doubled down and retaliated against me for telling the truth. The stories I have heard are heartbreaking. It is long past time for member states to investigate.