On March 24, 2022, UN human rights experts raised concern about an ongoing smear campaign, which reportedly included violent threats, against human rights lawyer Colin Harvey.
Harvey, who previously served as commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, has been reportedly subjected to a widespread online smear campaign since 2019. According to reports, he has been targeted by politicians, journalists, and others on social media; the campaign has included false allegations that he is affiliated with paramilitary groups, references to his ideas as nazism, and threats of violence. UN officials have publicly raised concerns that the severity of the campaign has placed him at risk of physical harm.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of intimidation and harassment, including threats of violence, against an academic for exercising his right to freedom of expression and academic freedom – conduct which is protected by international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Political actors, journalists, and others must refrain from actions that chill or restrict such conduct, regardless of political or ideological differences in opinion. In addition to harm to the immediate victim, intimidation and harassment in response to peaceful expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.