GENEVA (AN) — The U.N. Human Rights Council appointed a special rapporteur to examine Russia's human rights records in light of its crackdowns on dissent over its war in Ukraine.
Delegates to the 47-nation council on Friday approved the appointment of a rapporteur, or independent investigator, on a 17-6 vote, with 24 abstentions. The investigator's job will be to report on rights violations in Russia and to keep in touch with groups and activists both in the country and abroad.
Until now, the council had never appointed an investigator to look at specific issues in any of the five nations — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — that hold permanent, veto-wielding seats on the U.N. Security Council, the world body's most powerful arm.
The resolution, which was spearheaded by the European Union's 27 member nations except Hungary and supported by 47 other nations, noted concerns about “mass forced shutdowns” of Russia's independent media, NGOs and opposition groups. The Russian government has criminalized whatever it deems to be “fake” news about Russia’s military in a move to spread its own propaganda.
"With this vote, council members have pledged their support to Russian civilians and civil society groups as they are under attack from an increasingly violent and totalitarian state," said Phil Lynch, executive director of the International Service for Human Rights, a Geneva-based NGO that supports human rights defenders.
"This is also a signal that, even if committed by permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, perpetrators of egregious human rights violations, including possible war crimes and crimes against humanity, will not escape scrutiny," he said.
Russia's U.N. ambassador Gennady Gatilov dismissed the resolution as another “despicable" effort to pressure Russia. “This scheme by the E.U. and its allies is yet another attempt to punish our country for pursuing an independent foreign and domestic policy," he said.
Just before the vote, Russian human rights group Memorial was named a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
In March, the council authorized the creation of a three-member commission of inquiry that will monitor and investigate all "abuses and violations of international humanitarian law" resulting from Russia's full-scale Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. An independent international commission of inquiry made up of three human rights experts will have a year to prepare a report on Russia for the council.
Russia and Eritrea were the only two countries that opposed that earlier measure, which condemned the invasion and demanded that Russia withdraw from Ukraine in a "swift and verifiable" manner. Another 13 nations, including China, India, Pakistan and Sudan, abstained from the vote. The council also called for humanitarian workers to be allowed unimpeded access and held a minute of silence for Ukraine's victims.