As autocrats contest Human Rights Council, ‘Who Guards the Guardians?’


The rights situation in Russia has “significantly deteriorated” since President Vladimir Putin launched his war against Ukraine in February last year, an expert commissioned by the U.N.’s top human rights body said in her first report on the country on Monday, AP reports:

Mariana Katzarova, the special rapporteur on Russia’s rights situation mandated by the Human Rights Council, chronicled the domestic crackdown that has largely targeted critics of Putin’s war as well as other opposition voices in Russia.

As the UN General Assembly prepares to meet in New York next week, a new joint NGO report is urging opposition to the candidacies of Russia, China, Cuba, Burundi and Kuwait in the forthcoming elections to the 47-nation Human Rights Council. They are “unqualified” due to their human rights records and their voting records on UN human rights resolutions, adds the report, Who Guards the Guardians?, from UN Watch, Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights.

“Electing the dictatorships of China, Russia and Cuba as UN judges on human rights is like making a gang of arsonists into the fire brigade,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent non-governmental human rights group based in Geneva.

“It will be slap in the face to their thousands of political prisoners, and to millions of their other citizens subjected to repression, if the UN makes gross abusers into global judges and guardians of human rights,” said Neuer.

According to the HRC membership criteria, Burundi, China and Russia stand out as manifestly unsuitable for membership at the Human Rights Council, ISHR observes: All three States have been identified by UN experts as being allegedly responsible for crimes against humanity and other atrocity crimes, and for the repression of civil society, including  systematically threatening and attacking defenders who seek to cooperate with the UN.

On Monday 18 September, over 50 activists and members of civil society organisations gathered on Geneva’s Place des Nations, opposite the UN’s European headquarters, unfurling a giant banner celebrating the right to defend human rights, as enshrined in the foundational UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, ISHR adds.

CIVICUS has released its latest watchlist to coincide with the UN’s Human Rights Council (runs to middle of October). Several of the countries featured have upcoming national elections. Check out the valuable global summary, individual country press releases and research briefs (below).


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