UN official calls for nations to respect human rights whistleblowers like Snowden

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640px-Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgNavi Pillay, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, appealed to the nations of the world to respect privacy and asylum rights, and protect individuals who disclose human rights violations. Referring to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, she said, “Without prejudging the validity of any asylum claim by Snowden, I appeal to all States to respect the internationally guaranteed right to seek asylum, in accordance with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration and Article 1 of the UN Convention relating to the status of refugees, and to make any such determination in accordance with their international legal obligations.”

Martin Schenin, formerly the UN’s Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, has expressed similar views.

“Reliable factual information about serious human rights violations by an intelligence agency is most likely to come from within the agency itself. In these cases, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure. Such whistleblowers should firstly be protected from legal reprisals and disciplinary action when disclosing unauthorized information.”

Whistleblower advocates in the United States have criticized the process created for disclosure of intelligence agency abuses.  Officially designated “channels,” they say, leave whistleblowers vulnerable to retaliation like that experienced by another former NSA employee, Thomas Drake. “National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals,” says Pillay.