Mongolia: status of the criminal investigation against WHRD & environmentalist Sukhgerel Dugersuren (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of Mongolia on 22 June 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication


Topic: status of the criminal investigation opened against Sukhgerel Dugersuren.

Ms. Sukhgerel Dugersuren is a woman human rights defender and environmentalist. She is the director of the civil society organisation (CSO) Oyu Tolgoi Watch Mongolia (OT Watch), which is accredited to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. She is also the Mongolian director of the regional CSO Rivers Without Boundaries International Coalition, which gathers over 30 environmental NGOs and experts from Russia, Mongolia, the US and China, dedicated to preserving the health of transboundary river basins in north-east Eurasia through joint advocacy and promoting best practices in river management. Ms. Dugersuren has for years been engaged in monitoring the human rights and environmental impact of corporate activity in Mongolia, with a focus on the extractive sector, promoting greater transparency and consultation, and ensuring adherence to environmental protection standards.

Ms. Sukhgerel Dugersuren was the subject of a communication addressed to the Government of Mongolia by UN experts on 6 September 2022, in which we expressed concern regarding a criminal investigation allegedly opened against her under article 19.4 of the Criminal Code for “illegal cooperation with [a] foreign intelligence agency [or] agent”.


On 3 June 2022, Ms. Dugersuren published an opinion piece online arguing against the development of the Erdeneburen Hydropower Reservoir on the basis of the threats it would pose to the rights of local communities and wetlands (see our 2022 communication).

On 27 July 2022, the Investigation Department of the General Intelligence Agency opened a case against Ms. Dugersuren for the suspected violation of Article 19.4 of the Criminal Code, which addresses “Illegal cooperation with [a] foreign intelligence agency [or] agent”. The investigation was launched following the appearance of an article in a German news website alleging that Ms. Dugersuren and one other person were being used by the Russian Federation to sabotage Mongolia’s efforts to break free of energy dependence on Russia. This article was translated into Mongolian and republished on a number of Mongolian websites.


In the communication, we express concern at the confirmation by the Government, in its response to our previous communication, of the criminal investigation opened against Ms. Sukhgerel Dugersuren, which we fear to be directly connected to her exercise of her right to freedom of expression to highlight environmental and social risks connected to the development of the Erdeneburen Hydropower Reservoir.


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