UN body votes to establish Russia human rights investigator, Moscow protests

UN body votes to establish Russia human rights investigator, Moscow protests

  • UN body targets ‘P5’ member for the first time
  • Follows closure of human rights groups in Russia
  • Vote follows big defeat for West against China

GENEVA, Oct 7 (Reuters) – A UN human rights body comfortably passed a motion on Friday to appoint a new independent expert on alleged human rights abuses in Russia, accusing Moscow of creating a “climate of fear” through repression and violence.

The Russian government quickly made clear it would not cooperate with the expert.

Members voted 17 in favor and six against, with 24 abstaining. The move is the first time that the 16-year-old Human Rights Council (HRC) has set up a Special Rapporteur to examine the rights record of one of its so-called ‘P5’ members, which hold permanent seats on the Security Council .

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“We want it to be clear today that we didn’t forget those who struggle for freedom at home while (Russian President Vladimir) Putin represses the Russian people and carries out aggression overseas,” Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Simon Manley , told Reuters right after the vote.

Nearly 50 countries brought the motion including Britain, all European Union countries barring Hungary, as well as the United States, Ukraine, Japan and Colombia. China was among those opposed.

The move follows stronger Russian laws this year to punish people Moscow says discredit the armed forces or spread fake information, and the forced closure of human rights groups, including Memorial, which won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

In Moscow, the foreign ministry said it firmly rejected the resolution on the grounds it contained false allegations, Tass news agency said.

“Russia … will ignore the special mechanism established by the HRC and refuses to cooperate with it,” Tass cited the ministry as saying.

Tatiana Glushkova, a lawyer at Memorial Human Rights Centre, told Reuters she was happy with the outcome but said she expected access difficulties for the Special Rapporteur. “We don’t even dream of them being invited into Russia,” she said.

Moscow has previously called criticism of its domestic rights record unfounded and denied targeting civilians in Ukraine where it says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to destroy military infrastructure.

The 47-member council is deeply divided, with a growing chorus of countries led by Russia and China opposing any action against specific countries, which they say amounts to political meddling.

Friday’s win comes as a relief to Western countries after the historic defeat of a China motion on Thursday.

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Reporting by Emma Farge and David Ljunggren, Editing by Miranda Murray, William Maclean and Jonathan Oatis

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