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Human rights whistle-blower on Uighur dissidents claims UN will 'fire' her

Members of the Muslim Uighur minority demonstrate in front of Chinese consulate, Dec 30 [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 January, 2021

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Lawyer Emily Reilly is claiming that the United Nations intends to 'fire' her after she spoke out about Uighur dissident names allegedly being given to the Chinese government.


A lawyer who reportedly works for the United Nations has claimed that the human rights body is planning on "firing" her after becoming a whistleblower and alleged that the UN had been actively passing names of Uighur dissidents to the Chinese government.

Taking to Twitter, Emma Reilly, who worked at the UN in Geneva and with the Human Rights Council, wrote:

"The @UN is investigating and planning to fire me for blowing the whistle to national govts on @UN giving names of their nationals to China, so China could target their families. @UN has *never* investigated those responsible or stopped handing over names. /1.

"Ms. Reilly has engaged litigation in multiple proceedings related to these matters before the independent UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal, a number of which are ongoing," Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights told The New Arab.

"Numerous factual or legal contentions which Ms. Reilly continues to advance in the public domain have however already been rejected by those Tribunals. Unfortunately, because of those processes that are still ongoing, we are constrained in our ability to respond in further detail to her many allegations."

Reilly went on to say: "The person who ordered the investigation (@UN's head of management) is *supposed* to be under investigation for retaliating against me. @antonioguterres, why did you refuse your own Ethics Office saying the investigation into the retaliators should be referred externally? /3 of 3."

She added: "Forgot one - @AustraliaUN_GVA, the @UN did not only hand over info on at least one Australian, they even got rid of an Australian judge with no notice to stop him ruling in my favour. That's the act of an autocracy, not an organisation with rule of law."

Colville said Wednesday her claims related to "a past practice" and that her allegetations the practice of passing on names is continuing is "false". 

"Ms. Reilly's allegations relate to a discontinued historical practice whereby the names of Human Rights Council participants were occasionally confirmed to States in limited circumstances, with care taken to ensure that no action of OHCHR would endanger human rights activists," Colville said, adding that the practise Reilly refers to was "discontinued in 2015".

"We are not aware of any evidence whatsoever that any action by the Office in this regard resulted in harm to any participant."

The OHCHR confirmed to The New Arab that Reilly is still an employee, and did not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation into her conduct.

Reilly accused the UN of aiding China in keeping an eye on Uighur dissidents to control their families inside the country and has been a vocal critic for several years.

Appearing on LBC Radio in November, she said: "When people are planning to come to the human rights council to challenge China about this genocide…the UN passes their names to China and China uses that information to put pressure on families, to arrest their families, to detain them in camps, to torture them.

"I have been denouncing this since 2013."

The UK earlier said it was introducing fresh fines for British companies who have been found to work with Chinese companies with links to Xinjiang camps, where Uighur slave labour and other abuses against the Muslim minority are said to be practiced. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said what China was doing to Uighur Muslims was tatamount to "torture".

China has been accused of detaining around 1 million Uighurs in camps, where the Muslim minority are allegedly forced to assimilate into mainstream Han culture by eating pork and drinking alcohol, along with being subject to other human rights abuses.

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