In Russia, human rights “significantly degraded” since the war in Ukraine

by time news

2023-09-18 15:14:16

The human rights situation “has deteriorated significantly” in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, highlighted this Monday, September 18, the first report of the expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.

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“The situation was already in steady decline over the past two decades, partly due to the two wars in Chechnya which ended in 2009”specifies rapporteur Mariana Katzarova, responsible for monitoring the human rights situation in Russia.

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This document, which must be presented to the Human Rights Council this week, does not contain any surprises or shocking revelations, but the adoption of the rapporteur’s mandate by this Council marked a defeat for Moscow in the fight diplomacy that Russia and Kiev’s allies have engaged in in all UN forums since the invasion of Ukraine.

“Muzzling civil society”

This is the first time that a rapporteur has been appointed to investigate one of the five permanent member countries of the Security Council. The expert highlighted Moscow’s attempts to“hinder” his work and lamented having had no access to Russia.

“Russia does not recognize this mandate and has officially declared its rejection of any form of interaction with this illegitimate special procedure”according to a press release from the Russian Foreign Ministry, published on the occasion of the Council session.

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The report argues that “Russian authorities have severely restricted freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, both online and offline, and have fundamentally undermined the independence of the judiciary and fair trial guarantees.”

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The rapporteur also denounces the legislative apparatus put in place recently “to muzzle civil society and punish rights defenders”. “The often violent enforcement of these laws and regulations has led to a systematic repression against civil society organizations, which has closed civic space and independent media”she regrets.

Torture and sexual violence

“Impunity for human rights violations at the national level and the withdrawal of the Russian Federation from the European Court of Human Rights have reduced the possibilities for victims to seek recourse and reparations”underlines Mariana Katzarova.

She highlights “the climate of impunity, the unpredictability of the changes made to the law, in addition to their ambiguity, their number and their scope, as well as their arbitrary application”, which forced many Russians into exile. Mariana Katzarova demanded the release of all political opponents arbitrarily detained, including Alexei Navalny, as well as dissidents Vladimir Kara-Mourza and Ilia Yashin.

She also described how women, particularly those working as rights defenders, activists or journalists, have “experienced specific gender-based violence, humiliation and intimidation”. “The persistent use of torture and ill-treatment, including sexual and gender-based violence, endangers the lives of those in detention”she adds.

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She urged Russia to “conduct an effective, impartial and independent investigation into all cases of use of force, arbitrary detention and other forms of pressure”. Moscow should also “guarantee a rapid, transparent and effective investigation (…) into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention”she declared, demanding that all perpetrators be held accountable.

The expert, whose mandate expires next month unless the UN Human Rights Council votes to extend it, stressed the importance of continuing to monitor the situation. For Russian diplomacy, the mandate, the extension of which for one year should be the subject of a resolution from Ukraine’s allies, is “politicized and extremely divisive”.

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