4 Candidates Shortlisted in Selection of Next UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

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Mr. David Kaye,Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Four candidates have been proposed by the Consultative Group to the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) as the final shortlist for the selection of the next UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The successful candidate will succeed the current Special Rapporteur, Mr. David Kaye, a clinical professor of law at the University of California, Irvine, in the United States, who specializes in public international law, international humanitarian law, human rights and international criminal justice, and assumed the position of UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in August 2014. 

The shortlisted candidates, all female, were recommended to the President of the HRC, Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (Austria), to make a final selection by the Consultative Group, following a process chaired by Mr. Jiang Duan (China).

The shortlisted candidates were selected out of 48 eligible candidates that applied for the position and the seven candidates interviewed by the Group. One of them will be finally selected for appointment by the President at the 44th HRC session, which runs from this month to July, subject to an extension of the mandate of the special rapporteur on freedom of expression by the Council.  Those recommended are:

Ms Irene Khan (Bangladesh), most recently Director-General of the International Development Law Organization and previously Secretary-General of Amnesty International and a Visiting

Professor of human rights at the State University of New York. She also worked for over 20 years with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), both at headquarters and national offices.

Ms Nani Jansen Reventlow (Netherlands), an Adjunct Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom; a Lecturer in Law at the Human Rights Institute of Columbia Law School in New York and Founding Director of the Digital Freedom Fund, which supports strategic litigation to advance digital rights in Europe. She was also previously a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University in the United States and the legal director of the Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI) in the United Kingdom.

Ms Agustina Del Campo (Argentina), a Professor at the University of Palermo in Argentina, where she Director of the Centre for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information; and a guest expert at the Global Freedom of Expression project of Columbia University in New York. She has previously coordinated the Impact Litigation Project for Strengthening Democracy in Latin America at the American University Washington College of Law.

Ms Fatou Jagne Senghore (Gambia), who was the Regional Director of Senegal and West Africa Office of Article 19 until early in 2020. She has previously worked at the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and currently chairs the board of the Gambia Radio and Television Services and is a member of the steering committee of the Pan-African Human Rights Defenders Network.

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was originally created on March 5, 1993 by UN Commission on Human Rights at its 57th meeting by resolution 1993/45 for an initial period of three years, which was subsequently renewed upon expiration.  The Special Rapporteur was required to be “an individual of recognized international standing“.

After the Human Rights Council replaced the Commission on Human Rights, the new Council decided to extend the mandate for another three years in its resolution 7/36 of March 2008. The mandate was renewed again for an additional three years in March 2011 by resolution 16/4, and again in March 2014 by resolution 25/2, after which David Kaye was appointed.

On March 21, 2017, the Human Rights Council again extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a further period of three years by resolution 34/18, which expired this year.

The Special Rapporteur is mandated by HRC resolution 7/36:

(a) To gather all relevant information, wherever it may occur, relating to violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, discrimination against, threats or use of violence, harassment, persecution or intimidation directed at persons seeking to exercise or to promote the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including, as a matter of high priority, against journalists or other professionals in the field of information;

(b) To seek, receive and respond to credible and reliable information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of these cases;

(c) To make recommendations and provide suggestions on ways and means to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression in all its manifestations; and

(d) To contribute to the provision of technical assistance or advisory services by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

In the discharge of his mandate, the Special Rapporteur:

  1. a) Transmits urgent appeals and letters to UN Member States on alleged violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The Special Rapporteur summarises these communications as well as replies received from Governments in an annual report submitted to the Human Rights Council.
  1. b) Undertakes fact-finding country visits.
  1. c) Submits annual reports covering activities relating to the mandate to the Human Rights Council and, since 2010, to the UN General Assembly.