Tyrants Using Transnational Repression to Silence Critics: Report

Transnational Repression. Photo: Freedom House
Transnational Repression. Photo: Freedom House

Freedom House suggests that leaders must end impunity and limit opportunities to target exiles.

Democracy research organization Freedom House has released a new report on ‘Transnational Repression’ which details the systematic use of violence and intimidation against exiles and their families — impacting 3.5 million people globally.

Transnational repression is about governments reaching across borders to silence dissent among diasporas and exiles, including through assassinations, illegal deportations, abductions, digital threats, Interpol abuse, and family intimidation.

According to Freedom House, it is a daily assault on civilians everywhere — including in democracies like the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and Australia.

Critical voices that challenge authoritarian rule become voices to silence. The victims of transnational repression are usually journalists, human rights defenders, diaspora groups, family members of exiles, political activists, dissidents, and civil society leaders.

What appear to be isolated incidents when viewed separately—an assassination here, a kidnapping there—in fact form a constant threat across the world that is affecting the lives of millions of people and changing how activists, journalists, and regular individuals go about their lives.

Freedom House says in its report that transnational repression is no longer an exceptional tool, but it is a normal and institutionalized practice for dozens of countries that seek to control their citizens abroad.

Its impact on the rights of victims is severe. Even those who are not directly targeted may decide based on the threat against their community to remain silent. This is true of the most extreme violence: a single killing or rendition sends ripples throughout a huge circle of people.

But even digital threats or family intimidation—the easiest and most common forms of transnational repression—create an atmosphere of fear among exiles that pervades everyday activities.

Around the globe, according to Freedom House, states are employing a diverse and aggressive toolbox of tactics to control their citizens, or sometimes even non-citizens, abroad.

Authoritarian countries are silencing exiles and diasporas with tactics of fear and repression. These tactics violate exiles’ fundamental rights and undermine the rule of law in host countries. Freedom House suggests that leaders must end impunity and limit opportunities to target exiles.

Freedom House is an American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world.

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Rakesh Raman