During an Interactive dialogue with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Russian Federation, Humanists International has called attention to the oppression of government critics in the country, as well as the commission of genocide with the mass abduction of children from Ukraine.
Humanist International’s Director of Advocacy, Elizabeth O’Casey, addressed a meeting during the 54th session of the UN Human Rights Council and raised several issues on Russia’s recent human rights record, which, she noted, has significantly deteriorated since the invasion of Ukraine
Many of Russia’s human rights violations, she highlighted, are with the intent to silence critics of the government and the war in Ukraine. The rights to free expression, assembly, and association, have all been curtailed or denied, and critics have been labeled as “terrorists”, “foreign agents”, or denying “historic truth”, among other designations.
Access to information has been severely restricted inside Russia, and journalists, politicians, and bloggers – among many others – have been harassed and imprisoned. Anti-war protestors have faced criminal charges. This strategy, the statement goes on, fosters an atmosphere of fear and disinformation. Citizens within this context have begun to police one another, triggering anything from dismissals at work to criminal investigations and charges.
Addressing the war in Ukraine, the statement drew attention to the mass abduction of children from Ukraine to Russia and Russian-occupied areas, and their subsequent indoctrination with pro-Russian education. This has been described by some, including the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as genocide, underlining how systematic and extensive these efforts have been.
The Special Rapporteur on the Russian Federation, with whom this interactive dialogue took place, was created in October 2022 by a landmark Resolution of the Human Rights Council. UN Special Rapporteurs are independent human rights experts appointed by the Council with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective.
Humanists International, along with many other NGOs, had called for the creation of a Special Rapporteur on Russia as one of the responses necessary to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing that Russia’s human rights violations in Ukraine “are clearly facilitated and sustained by the oppressive human rights climate in the Russian Federation itself.”
The creation of this office was the first time the Human Rights Council created a Special Rapporteur for a Permanent Security Council Member (China, France, Russia, UK and US).