Scales for Justice

Working towards peace and reconciliation



Freedom of expression

During the Second World war the allies adopted the four fundamental freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from want and freedom from fear - as their fundamental aims. These aims were re-affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holding "Whereas [...] human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people".

Duties of States

According to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference and this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. States therefore have the duty to protect the freedom of expression, except  for respect of the rights or reputations of others or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

Restrictions

Despite biding international law there are some worrisome restrictions to the freedom of expression in countries around the world. Under the pretext of national security governments stifle critical voices through systematic discrimination, harassment, threats or use of violence, persecution and intimidation against persons seeking to exercise or to promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Often this concerns journalists, opposition leaders, human rights defenders and activists, who are arbitrarily arrested, intimidated, threatened or convicted on politically motivated criminal charges.

The mandate of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has been created due to concerns of "extensive occurrence of detention of, as well as discrimination, threats and acts of violence and harassment, including persecution and intimidation, directed at persons who exercise the right to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, and the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs as affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights." The current Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is Mr David Kaye from the United States, who has been appointed by the Human Rights Council in August 2014 for a term of three years.

What Scales for Justice (S4J) does

S4J is concerned about restrictions of the freedom of expression and there are different means to advocate for these freedoms on an international level. Next to advocacy work and online grassroot campaigns, there is also the possibility to directly engage at the UN through active participation in relevant meetings and bringing the issues to the attention of the concerned human rights bodies of the UN. One of the most effective means is the direct submission of information to United Nations Special Procedures, who are independant experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to examine and report on a specific human rights issue or theme.  

S4J sees one of its tasks in actively supporting the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.  Individuals facing such restrictions can therefore send an urgent appeal to Scales for Justice, which will study the case and discuss appropriate action. Based on it experience Scales for Justice may prepare a communication to the UN Special Rapporteur and organize follow-up meetings with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In cases of urgent concern S4J may also invite the individual to Geneva to assist meetings of the UN Human Rights Council and present his/her case at the UN in person.