The U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed a special rapporteur to monitor human rights in Russia. The resolution was adopted on a vote of 17 in favor, 6 against, and 24 abstentions.
The debate on the initiative began just as a Belarusian activist and two humanitarian organizations based in Ukraine and Russia were announced as co-winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The significance was not lost on those attending the council session.
Before the voting began, many delegates expressed concern about the worsening human rights situation in Russia. They deplored the severe restrictions on people’s fundamental rights to freedoms of expression and assembly.
The U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Michele Taylor, said repressive tactics and attacks against dissenting voices have significantly increased since Russia launched its war against Ukraine. She said the extensive shrinking of civic space has discouraged Russians from actively participating in public life.
“These unrelenting domestic attacks on human rights enable Russia’s war on Ukraine and its ongoing violations of the U.N. charter,” Taylor said. “However, the Russian authorities’ long-running and worsening repression within Russia more than justifies the creation of a special rapporteur. We will vote yes on this resolution and urge others to do so as well.”
Many other countries joined in this chorus of support. Only Venezuela, Cuba and China spoke out in defense of Russia’s position.
The Russian ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, lashed out at the council, saying it has stopped being a forum for dialogue to resolve general problems of human rights. Instead, he said the council has become a tool for Western countries to attain their political goals. He spoke through an interpreter.
“This is a further step in the Western strategy towards transforming the HRC [Human Rights Council] and the U.N. human rights system as a whole into a tool to serve the interests of one group of countries … as after all that is the final aim of this despicable document. The accusations it contains could be directed just as successfully against virtually all of the states which are co-sponsors of this draft,” Gatilov said.
The resolution cites many concerns, including mass arrests and detentions, and targeted harassment of journalists, politicians, human rights defenders, and other activists. It criticizes the forced shutdowns of civil society organizations, including the Russian human rights organization Memorial, one of this year’s Nobel peace laureates.
The resolution calls on Russian authorities to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur who will serve for a period of one year.