Former United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has faulted the agency for barring its staff members form taking part in #BlackLivesMatter protests in US and other parts of the world following the murder of George Floyd.
In a series of tweets, Kiai termed the move as grotesque and dangerous distortion, saying that UN is conflating the right to protest and racial equality with political partisanship.
“I’m hearing that @UN is telling staff that participation in protests “in the current circumstances may not be consistent with the independence and impartiality required of us as international civil servants”. This is a grotesque & dangerous distortion. If you take the approach to its logical end, any human rights issue could be off limits because it annoys states or their politicians,” said Kiai.
According ton Kiai, human rights sshould be a pillar of the UN, and not an out-of-bounds political affair.
Human rights are supposed to be a pillar of the @UN system. They should not be considered an out-of-bounds “political” issue for staff. The UN should embrace staff using their free time to #StandUpForRights,” he added.
THREAD 1/ I’m hearing that @UN is telling staff that participation in protests “in the current circumstances may not be consistent with the independence and impartiality required of us as international civil servants.”
— Maina Kiai (@Maina_Kiai) June 5, 2020
In a letter to staffer that has been leaked, UN advised its staff from participating in protests that “could bring substantial disrepute to the Organization.”
“taff members should consider the consequences of participating in public demonstrations given the public health orders during the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic to maintain social distancing, to avoid large gatherings and to practice other public health measures that may be incompatible with participation in mass protests.
“Moreover, insofar as some of the protests have given rise to violence and property damage, the risk that a United Nations staff member could be swept up in an uncontrolled demonstration, including facing arrest or detention, could bring substantial disrepute to the Organization,” the letter read in part.
This comes after UN Secretary-General António Guterres made clear the position of the United Nations through his tweet to the public, emphasizing that, “We must raise our voices against all expressions of racism and instances of racist behaviours”.
I am heartbroken to see violence on the streets in our host country and our host city of New York.
Grievances must be heard, but should be expressed peacefully – and authorities must show restraint in responding to demonstrations. pic.twitter.com/1i3w7OtCEq
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 2, 2020
In the letter, UN stated that in New York City or other locations in which curfews have been imposed, staff members must observe such curfews and similar public orders, for which public authorities have made exceptions, such as for essential workers and for health or similar emergencies.
However, a day after Kiai expressed his reservations on twitter, Guterres took to Twitter to state that UN staff members had joined together to express solidarity with victims of racism and share concerns. He however did not state how they did that, and where.
“The fight against racism is at the core of the @UN’s work. But if racism exists everywhere, it exists within the United Nations. Yesterday, staff joined together to express solidarity with victims & share concerns. We must move forward with introspection, honesty & action.” he tweeted.
The fight against racism is at the core of the @UN’s work.
But if racism exists everywhere, it exists within the United Nations.
Yesterday, staff joined together to express solidarity with victims & share concerns.
We must move forward with introspection, honesty & action.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) June 5, 2020
Kiai was recently appointed as a board member for the newly created oversight board for Facebook and Instagram.
Mr Kiai is a director of Human Rights Watch’s Global Alliances and Partnerships program. He, together with other, will decide what content to allow or remove from the largest social media platform.