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“We Will Find You”: A Global Look at How Governments Repress Nationals Abroad


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“We Will Find You”: A Global Look at How Governments Repress Nationals Abroad

“We Will Find You”: A Global Look at How Governments Repress Nationals Abroad

23rd February 2024


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For decades, Human Rights Watch has documented governments reaching outside their borders to silence or deter dissent by committing human rights abuses against their own nationals or former nationals. Governments have targeted human rights defenders, journalists, civil society activists, and political opponents, among others, deemed to be a security threat. Many are asylum seekers or recognized refugees in their place of exile. These governmental actions beyond borders leave individuals unable to find genuine safety for themselves and their families. This is transnational repression.

Transnational repression looks different depending on the context. Recent cases include a Rwandan refugee who was killed in Uganda following threats from the Rwandan government; a Cambodian refugee in Thailand only to be extradited to Cambodia and summarily detained; and a Belarusian activist who was abducted while aboard a commercial airline flight. Transnational repression may mean that a person’s family members who remain at home become targets of collective punishment, such as the Tajik activist whose family in Tajikistan, including his 10-year-old daughter, was detained, interrogated, and threatened.


Transnational repression is not new, but it is a phenomenon that has often been downplayed or ignored and warrants a call to action from a global, rights-centered perspective. Human Rights Watch’s general reporting includes over 100 cases of transnational repression. This report includes more than 75 of these cases from the past 15 years, committed by over two dozen governments across four regions. While the term “transnational repression” has at times become shorthand for naming authoritarian governments as perpetrators of rights violations, democratic administrations have assisted in cases of transnational repression.

Report by the Human Rights Watch



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