We hereby launch a global campaign calling on all Members of Parliament, human rights activists and concerned citizens worldwide to urge their governments to take action to ensure that the Russian regime of Vladimir Putin — a brutal dictator wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court — will be kept off the United Nations Human Rights Council in the upcoming October 2023 elections, to be held at the General Assembly in New York, for the 2024-2026 term.
Russia’s deputy foreign minister formally announced that the country would run when he addressed the recent 52d Session of the UNHRC, and UN Watch was the first to take the floor and urge countries to defeat this absurd candidacy.
We recall that Russia was removed from the Council last year, in an emergency session of the UN General Assembly, on account of the regime’s gross and systematic violations of human rights, and violations of international humanitarian law.
Russia does not meet the membership criteria set out in UNGA Resolution 60/251. As detailed below, Russia is not qualified for membership. Russia has committed atrocities, aggression and war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine, as well as gross and systematic human rights violations at home, such as in its recent sham conviction of dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza to a 25-year prison term for protesting the war on Ukraine. Russia has also committed war crimes in Syria, Crimea, which it has illegally annexed, and Georgia, where it committed ethnic cleansing in 2008, and it illegally occupies Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
When the new Council was created in 2006, it was supposed to improve on its widely discredited predecessor, the similarly-named Commission on Human Rights. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan acknowledged that the old Commission suffered from a fatal “credibility deficit”— one that was casting “a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole.” He decried a situation where countries sought membership of the Commission “not to strengthen human rights but to protect themselves against criticism or to criticize others.” “Politicization” and “selectivity,” according to Secretary-General Annan, were nothing less than “hallmarks of the Commission’s existing system.”
The new Council, however, promised to be different, with criteria of membership that contemplate electing those who “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Putin’s Russia, by any measure, completely fails this test.
Russia commits serious human rights violations, including through repressive laws designed to suppress political opposition and dissent; government restrictions on media freedom; restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly; denial of citizens’ rights to choose their representatives in free and fair elections; the assault on and occupation of Ukraine and related violations; prosecution of individuals for supporting Ukraine’s government or criticizing Russian policies in the occupied Ukrainian territories; politically-motivated denial of due process to anti-Putin defendants; discrimination against racial, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities; government prosecution of LGBT persons; torture at detention facilities; overcrowded and substandard prison conditions; executive branch pressures on the judiciary; human trafficking; discrimination against people with disabilities; and harassment of civil society.
🇷🇺 Russia is running for UNHRC “in spite of unprecedented pressure” on them. “Russia will consistently uphold the principles of cooperation and building constructive mutually respectful dialogue with states in the council to find optimal solutions to current human rights issues.” pic.twitter.com/vC6vOaKScP
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) March 9, 2023
Timeline of UN Watch’s Prior Successful Campaign to Remove Russia From UNHRC in April 2022
- April 29, 2020: When Vladimir Putin’s Russia announced its bid for a UNHRC seat, UN Watch was the first to fact-check and expose their lies. Our objections to electing Russia were published as official documents by the United Nations and circulated to diplomats. In a press conference, UN Watch invited Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, twice poisoned in Moscow, to appeal to the United Nations not to elect the Putin regime to the world’s highest human rights body, saying it would be “an embodiment of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.”
- September 24, 2020: UN Watch took the floor in the plenary of the UNHRC, saying: “In its pledge, Russia promised to ensure protection of human rights and freedoms under international law. If so, why does Russia trample international law — by invading Ukraine, swallowing Crimea, and systematically bombing civilians, hospitals and schools in Syria? Why do critics of President Putin wind up imprisoned, poisoned or assassinated?”
- October 13, 2020: Russia wins election to the council, sweeping 82% of the votes. BBC News reports on UN Watch’s opposition campaign, including its joint NGO report on why Russia and other candidates were entirely unqualified.
- Feb. 2022: As soon as Russia attacked Ukraine, UN Watch led the call on democracies to expel Russia from the UNHRC. As we predicted, the international community had to wait for a new atrocity—the slaughter in Bucha—to take action to expel Russia from the UN’s top human rights body.
- March 1, 2022: US Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed the UN Human Rights Council and implied that Russia did not belong there.
- March 2, 2022: Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets told the Council directly: “The only way to retain the credibility of the Human Rights Council is to suspend the membership of Russia.”
- March 29, 2022: In an extraordinary statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman opposed removing Russia, saying it would be “setting a dangerous precedent.” (March 29, 2022 briefing | Video)
- March 31, 2022: UN Watch took the floor at the United Nations Human Rights Council to formally demand that they remove Russia. Our appeal entered the record.
- April 3, 2022: UN Watch criticized the UN chief for his inappropriate statement defending Russia, and reminded him that, on the contrary, it is the failure to enforce the UNHRC’s own rules on membership duties that would be dangerous; and that the precedent is that, in wake of a 2010-2011 campaign led by UN Watch, Qaddafi’s Libya was removed in 2011 from the Council.
- April 3, 2022: UN Watch drafted a resolution to remove Russia and circulated it to diplomats, calling on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield to take the lead at the General Assembly.
- April 4, 2022: CNN reports on UN Watch’s campaign and interviews executive director Hillel Neuer. “This morning, new calls to remove Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The group UN Watch is drafting a resolution for the UN General Assembly to force them out.” (video | transcript)
- April 6, 2022: The U.S., other Western democracies and Ukraine co-sponsor a draft resolution, similar to that published earlier by UN Watch.
- April 7, 2022: The UN General Assembly votes 93 to 24 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.