GENEVA: The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday (Jul 1) passed a non-binding resolution which condemned nations that intentionally prevent or disrupt Internet access.
As with previous resolutions on digital rights, the resolution reaffirmed UNHRC’s position that “the same rights people have offline must also be protected online,” and stressed the importance of upholding the universal right to freedom of expression under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
Rights groups and activists welcomed the resolution. Thomas Hughes, Executive Director of freedom of expression campaign group ARTICLE 19, said that the resolution was a much-needed response to increased pressure on online freedom of expression around the world.
“From impunity for the killings of bloggers to laws criminalising legitimate dissent on social media, basic human rights principles are being disregarded to impose greater controls over the information we see and share online,” he said in a statement.
Former CIA contractor and whistle-blower Edward Snowden hailed the resolution, tweeting: “Good news today: @UN Human Rights Council affirms online rights, condemns internet disruptions and shutdowns. #HRC32”.
Deji Olukotun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager at digital rights group Access Now, said in an online statement that “shutdowns harm everyone and allow human rights crackdowns to happen in the dark”. The group said that they had recorded at least 15 Internet shutdowns around the world last year, and 20 shutdowns in the first half of 2016.
Non-binding resolutions are not legally enforceable, and this one was passed by consensus but opposed by a minority of states including Russia, China, Indonesia and India.
According to a press statement by ARTICLE 19, Russia and China led the call for an amendment to the resolution which sought to delete the call for states to adopt a “human rights-based approach” for providing access to the Internet, and to remove language relating to the UDHR.