GENEVA — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine came under scrutiny at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, European countries prepared unprecedented action in the agency’s top human rights body to put a spotlight on the Kremlin’s crackdown on political opposition and critics.
All the European Union members except Hungary are putting forward a resolution in the Human Rights Council in Geneva to appoint a special rapporteur or independent monitor to “collect, examine and assess” information on the situation within Russia and produce a report for the council in a year.
Council members have never before attempted to put a world power and permanent member of the U.N. Security Council under such scrutiny, but believe that Russia’s assault on Ukraine both requires and makes it possible to find support for this response.
An initial draft of the resolution seen by The New York Times draws attention to mass arrests, suppression of independent media and intimidation of activists, including critics of the Ukraine invasion, and it underscores “the clear connection between domestic repression and war abroad.” The resolution is due to be discussed next week and will likely face a vote on the council in early October.
Russia, which had its membership of the U.N. Human Rights Council suspended in March after its invasion of Ukraine, has condemned the initiative. In a note sent to diplomatic missions in Geneva on Tuesday, Russia accused Western governments of using human rights as a pretext to interfere in its internal affairs and to politicize the Human Rights Council.
“Their flawed logic is simple,” Russia’s note said, “if they are able to pressure a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council then they can coerce into submission each and every country around the world.”
Russian human rights groups and activists have urged the Human Rights Council to appoint the special rapporteur in response to increasing repression within Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.
A statement signed by more than 20 human rights groups and activists including the Memorial Human Rights Center, the Sakharov Center and Soldiers’ Mothers of St. Petersburg said Russian authorities have arrested more than 16,000 people for dissent or criticism, mostly in relation to the war in Ukraine.