Special Rapporteur: Targeting at-risk groups a reprehensible “divide and conquer” technique

Jun 20 2014

ISHR op-ed-500UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai has authored a commentary for the International Service for Human Rights, in which he blasts the practice of targeting of groups “most at-risk” who seek to exercise their assembly and association rights.

The plight of at-risk groups was the subject of a report Kiai presented to the UN Human Rights Council on June 10, 2014. The label ‘most at risk’ refers to the heightened occurrence of attacks and reprisals against these groups

Kiai notes in article that it is hard to define exactly what “at risk” means.

“It’s a moving target,” he writes. “Today it could be an obscure classification, based on religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. Tomorrow it could be broader – young or old, male or female. The next day it could be you.”

“Indeed, somewhat paradoxically, every single person reading this article will have fallen into one of the report’s at-risk groups at some point in their lives,” he adds.

Kiai argues that the rationale for targeting marginalized groups invariably comes back to fear. For governments, this can be fear of seeing their authority undermined. But for ordinary people it usually comes down to fear of the unknown.

“Unfortunately, many governments are all too happy to leverage this fear for their own ends,” he said, noting that this practice has grave “divide and conquer undertones.”

Ultimately, Kiai says, the universality of assembly and association rights should prevail over fear, as these rights are meant as a “backstop against tyranny of all forms: tyranny of the majority in democracy, tyranny of authoritarianism, tyranny of the status quo.”

“The ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric is an illusion,” he concludes. “A government that can silence one group is a government that can silence anyone.”

The full piece is available on ISHR’s website.




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