NEW YORK (October 12, 2020) — On Tuesday, Russia could be elected to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the highest human rights body at the UN. This would give Russia, one of the world’s worst human rights abusers, significant influence over some of the most important international human rights mechanisms, including Universal Periodic Reviews and the appointment of independent investigators like Special Rapporteurs.
In the lead up to the vote, the Syria Campaign is circulating a petition calling on UN member states to vote against Russia’s candidacy. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) opposes the election of authoritarian regimes to serve on the Council and has joined the Syria Campaign in its efforts to oppose Russia’s election.
“Given that Russia’s involvement in Syria has contributed to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, it is indefensible for Russia to have a seat at the Human Rights Council,” said HRF chairman Garry Kasparov. “Putin’s regime will use this as an opportunity to protect himself and Bashar al-Assad from accountability for their egregious human rights violations. This is unacceptable.”
Campaigners have warned that Russia’s election to the Council will allow it to continue carrying out human rights abuses. Russia is a fully authoritarian state, and Putin’s regime has perpetrated atrocious human rights abuses both domestically and abroad.
A UN report found that Russia committed war crimes in Syria by indiscriminately bombing civilians and hospitals. Russia is propping up Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who, in the course of Syria’s ongoing civil war, has directed bombings and airstrikes that have damaged and destroyed homes, healthcare facilities, and schools, deployed chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, and enacted a campaign of forcible disappearances, torture, and killing of anyone who criticizes his actions. The fighting, which will enter its tenth year next spring, has created the largest refugee crisis in the world and left more than 500,000 people dead.
Russia is running unopposed, but that does not mean that the member states of the UN General Assembly are required to elect Russia to the seat. States are required to elect candidates to the Council by considering “the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights.” Candidates must have demonstrated that they would “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate with the Council.” Given those criteria, and Russia’s record of flagrantly disregarding human rights in Syria and elsewhere, member states should consider Russia an unqualified candidate for the Human Rights Council.
“The Council has played a vital role in independently investigating war crimes and violations of international human rights law, including those committed by Russia,” said Laila Kiki of the Syria Campaign. “It would be an absolute farce for Russia — a country that has deliberately targeted hospitals and bombed Syrian civilians, illegally annexed Crimea, and perpetrated ethnic cleansing in Georgia — to win a seat at the world’s top human rights body.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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