'Dangerous Backwards Step': Russia Slammed As It Tries To Rejoin UN Human Rights Council

Vladimir Putin still has an international arrest warrant out against him, by the way.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Contributor via Getty Images

Despite invading Ukraine and launching a long and bloody war last year, Russia is now looking to rejoin the UN’s human rights council.

Moscow was expelled last April because of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights”.

Ninety-three UN member states voted in favour of booting Russia out, while 24 tried to keep it in and 58 abstained from voting altogether.

At the time, Moscow said the vote was “illegitimate and politically motivated” – and then said it was quitting the council anyway.

But, now – according to documents obtained by the BBC – Russia is now lobbying UN members to get re-elected to the council for a three-year term in a vote taking place next month.

The council, based in Geneva, has 47 members, who are selected by the 193 members of the UN general assembly.

While the council cannot make legally binding decisions, it carries a great deal of prestige and can authorise investigations.

Russia will be competing with Albania and Bulgaria for the two seats put aside for central and eastern European nations in October’s elections.

Russia claims it will be able to find “adequate solutions for human rights issues”, and will try to stop the council being an “instrument which serves political wills of one group of countries”.

Most of Europe and North America has sided with Kyiv since Russia’s invasion, so Moscow has upped its anti-West rhetoric in recent months.

Russia has also been accused of committing war crimes throughout the course of the war with its attacks on Ukrainian civilians.

A new report of those alleged abuses was presented to the human rights council on Monday, from its commission of inquiry on Ukraine. It claimed Russia tortured some Ukrainian victims to death.

And two weeks ago, a UN-appointed expert warned that human rights in Russia had “significantly deteriorated”.

Emergency service workers gather outside damaged buildings as search for victims continues following a Russian missile attack in Lviv, Ukraine, in July.
Emergency service workers gather outside damaged buildings as search for victims continues following a Russian missile attack in Lviv, Ukraine, in July.
via Associated Press

The UN Watch, the Human Rights Foundation and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights also claimed in a joint report earlier this month that Russia was “unqualified” for membership of the human rights council.

It’s worth remembering that there is an international arrest warrant out for Russian president Vladimir Putin, too.

In March, he was accused of the “war crime of unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from occupied Ukraine to Russia.

The warrant issued by the international criminal court suggests there are “reasonable grounds” that Putin is directly responsible either because he committed these acts (with or through others) or by failing to “exercise control” over civilians or military personnel who did this.

Even so, the BBC reported that Russia was now offering small countries grain and arms in the hope of swaying their vote – meaning there’s a chance Moscow could get back on the council.

In the documents pushing for its re-election, the Kremlin blames the US and its allies for being pushed out of the council last year.

A spokesperson from the UK’s foreign office claimed the UK “strongly opposes” Moscow’s bid, pointing out that evidence of the country’s abuse of human rights “demonstrates Russia’s complete contempt for the work of the council”.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy also told the BBC: “The idea that Russia could return to the human rights council is an affront to the very concept of human rights and a dangerous backwards step that would damage its credibility.”

Although suspension are rare, Russia is not the only member state to lose its seat in the human rights council. Back in 2011, Libya lost its seat after its ruler suppressed protests.


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