Welcoming the commutation of United States army officer Chelsea Manning’s 35-year sentence for leaking classified military documents, a United Nations independents human rights expert today called on Governments to recognize the contributions of whistleblowers and pardon those serving prison sentences.
“I call on Governments worldwide to put an end to multiple campaigns of defamation, mobbing and even prosecution of whistleblowers like Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, the Luxleakers Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet and the tax corruption leaker Rafi Rotem,” said Alfred de Zayas, the UN Independent expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
Mr. de Zayas added that these are whistleblowers “who have acted in good faith and who have given meaning to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on freedom of expression.”
“A culture of secrecy is frequently also a culture of impunity,” Mr. de Zayas said, noting that because Article 19 is “absolutely crucial to every democracy, whistleblowers should be protected, not persecuted.”
In addition, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends freedom of expression and information.
The UN expert also directly called on the Governments of Sweden and the United Kingdom to follow the recommendations of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and to strengthen the human rights system.
Implementing the recommendations of the Working Group could impact one of the whistleblowers who Mr. de Zayas mentioned. Mr. Assange has been under the diplomatic protection of Ecuador in London for more than four years.
Independent experts and Special Rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.