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UNHRC: Reject attempts to weaken resolution on Human Rights and the Internet

This statement was originally published on article19.org on 30 June 2016.

ARTICLE 19 and more than 80 other organisations have called on states at the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to support a resolution on human rights and the Internet, and to reject attempts led by Russia and China to weaken it. The resolution will be considered for adoption of 30 June.

The draft resolution on “the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet” (A/HRC/32/L.20) is the joint initiative of Brazil, Nigeria, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States of America.

The draft resolution reaffirms that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online”, a fundamental principle that has formed the basis of two previous HRC resolutions adopted by consensus (A/HRC/res/26/13, June 2014; A/HRC/res/20/8, June 2012).

The draft resolution goes further than its predecessors, including by stressing the importance of an accessible and open Internet to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in calling for accountability for extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and other violations against people for expressing themselves online.

Four amendments to the draft resolution, tabled by the Russian Federation and China, seek to substantially weaken the resolution, including by stripping key language, taken from the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to freedom of expression “regardless of frontiers” and “through any media of one's choice”.

The resolution also unequivocally condemns “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online”. This would include measures to shut down the Internet or part of the Internet at times when access to information is critical, such as during polling in an election, or in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.

Positive references are made in the draft resolution to recent reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, which include specific recommendations to states to strengthen anonymity and encryption, and on the relationship between state and private ICT actors in promoting and protecting free expression online. It is important that future resolutions continue to draw upon the Special Rapporteur's work, so that they establish more detailed UN standards on the protection and promotion of freedom of expression online.

We urge all delegations at the UN HRC to cosponsor the draft resolution, and urge HRC Member States to reject proposed amendments aimed at weakening it, and vote in favour of the resolution if a vote is called.

Download the draft resolution here.

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