Dear Secretary-General Guterres,
We write to you in solidarity with a large number of civil society delegates to the WTO Ministerial Conference of December 2017 whose rights as delegates have been violated by the host country in a way that is not only a violation of the relevant host country agreement, but which is also a human rights violation.
We write to you because at the very least, these civil society delegates have a human right to a credible, UN based process through which they can have their good name and reputation restored after having been unjustly and libelously accused (by the host country) of having posted “incitements to violence and chaos” in social media.1
After all, according to Article 17(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, no one shall be subjected to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation, and in view of the international nature of this kind of situation, only the UN is in the position of being able to convene a credible process through which the good name and reputation of the concerned civil society delegates can be restored.
The larger context of these attacks on the honor and reputation of the concerned civil society delegates are the provisions in the host country agreement which permit the host country to refuse entry on national security grounds. We do not object to these provisions. We however object to the abuse of these provisions to arbitrarily revoke the accreditation (of in this case, a large number of) civil society delegates (who had been accredited by the WTO). In this kind of situation, unless civil society delegates have an effective remedy against such attacks on their honor and reputation, the provisions of the host country agreement —that were intended to guarantee the rights of inter alia the civil society delegates— only result in insult and libel being added to the injury of not able to participate in the conference.
We mention specifically the cases of the two civil society delegates who have been denied entry at the border and deported:
- Sally Burch of Agencia Latinoamericana de Información (ALAI), who is also a member of the
Steering Committee of the Just Net Coalition.
- Petter Slaatrem Titland, leader of Attac Norway.
This situation however also concerns a large number of further civil society delegates who cancelled their travel plans after having been informed of the host country having revoked their accreditation. For further details, we refer you to the Our World Is Not For Sale (OWINFS) Network, ourworldisnotforsale.net .
We are especially concerned about the future of the international discourse. Certainly the events in the context of the WTO Ministerial of December 2017 must not be allowed to set a precent for the arbitrary revocation of accreditation and libel of civil society delegates!