UN says right to peaceful assembly needs to be respected

unAddressing the daily press briefing on 06 August 2014, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the UN office in New York did not have first-hand details about the particular incident in Maradana. This was in answer to a question on Sri Lanka.

Question:  I want to ask about Sri Lanka and also South Sudan.  In Sri Lanka, there was recently a meeting in Colombo of families of the disappeared, predominantly Tamils, who were broken up by a mob of monks.  It’s something that a number of ambassadors in the country have denounced, including the United States State Department. I’m wondering, given the UN’s interest in the country and the upcoming inquiry, is there any UN comment on what seems to be intimidation of possible witnesses.  And also on sort of the same topic, for that inquiry, they put out a form telling people to email in their evidence of abuses by October.  Some people said that given that it’s not encrypted, it may actually put victims or witnesses at some risk.  I wonder, I know it’s a Navi Pillay question, but I wanted to ask you, is there a UN system-wide thinking of how, given surveillance and other things Governments can do, to use encryption or some kind of privacy in terms of collecting of evidence?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you are well aware of the comments that Navi Pillay and others made in terms of making sure that human rights defenders and others who provide information are kept safe and protected.  Any of the use of the evidence would have to be in keeping with that, in terms of protecting sources of information.  So, that is the main point there.  Regarding the protest, of course, I don’t have a specific comment on this, since we don’t have the first-hand details about this particular situation.  But what I can tell you is of course that we stand by and continue to uphold the right to peaceful assembly everywhere in the world, and that needs to be respected.  (UN)

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