Emily Reilly, an attorney at the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), came forward in 2020 to accuse her employer of repeatedly sharing names of Chinese activists and dissidents who attended the UN Human Rights Council meetings in Switzerland with the government in Beijing, allegedly putting them at risk of repercussions.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights staffer Emily Reilly has told Fox News that the United Nations was planning to rescind the whistleblower protection status she was granted in 2020 by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres over claims that her office was secretly handing the Chinese government names of dissidents who were attending panels and sessions in Switzerland to criticise Beijing.
“I am collateral damage, and senior managers are now apparently so utterly devoid of ethics that they genuinely do not understand why I would prioritise the lives of human beings over my pay and benefits,” Reilly said.
The woman, who still officially remains a lawyer at the OHCHR – albeit, she says, without actual functions, – argues that she was initially “denied” the whistleblower status until her case was reviewed by a soon-to-be-retired UN ethics officer. The officer in question “found that managers of the UN Human Rights Office were concerned only with giving China what it wanted”, Reilly said.
“I am not even permitted to report for work and the UN refuses to even pretend to give a reason. The retaliation is blatant and intended to send a message to all UN staff – China is the new boss, and no UN staffer should ever report breaking the rules to please Beijing,” the lawyer claims.
.@UN: Emma is not a whistleblower and has not faced retaliation.
Me: That’s defamation. I’m suing.
Ethics Officer: Emma is a whistleblower and has faced retaliation.
UN judge: I will not allow that document in evidence, it seems irrelevant.@antonioguterres this is your @UN.
— Emma Reilly (@EmmaReillyTweet) June 14, 2021
Reilly said in 2020 that she she learned about the controversial practice of providing China with the names of dissidents who were about to appear at the Human Rights Council meetings as far back as 2013 from internal emails. She claimed that these activists were pressured by Beijing not to appear at the panels, with their family members allegedly being tortured and detained. Reilly particularly cited two cases: that of Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa and human rights campaigner Gao Zhisheng, suggesting that their families have faced repercussions ahead of their appearances at the 21st session of the HRC.
The whistleblowers claimed that she had sent relative reports about the breach of the UN rules to her bosses, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Union, but they resulted in no actions due to UN “diplomatic immunity”.
The United Nations rejected the accusations, saying that the practice of confirming to member states the names of people who were about to attend sessions ended in 2015, maintaining that “at no time has any activist been placed at risk”.
“Since the start of the Human Rights Council in 2006, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights stopped providing lists of those accredited to attend,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric added in March 2021.
Reilly blasted the response as “laughable” and said that OHCHR has “retaliated” against her for “telling the truth”. She said that the “lying” agency was using this “exceptional policy” only for China as similar requests by other governments were apparently denied.
And @UN_Spokesperson @StephDujarric, there is a FINAL determination in my case, link below. It says I’m a whistleblower suffering retaliation. The policy required investigation in July 2020. @antonioguterres is ignoring the rules.
Feel free to comment.https://t.co/JheVzDpFNf
— Emma Reilly (@EmmaReillyTweet) June 15, 2021
It’s not clear whether she will retain her whistleblower status, as the matter was “currently under internal review”, according to an email from spokesman Dujarric.
In July 2020, Secretary-General Guterres defended protections for the whistleblower but hinted that Reilly’s situation was an “individual case in which we can have different opinions about”.