The crackdown by Moscow ‘undermines the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms’, a UN official says.
The United Nations has condemned Moscow’s “intimidation” of critics opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine, warning it is undermining fundamental freedoms.
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council on Monday, deputy UN rights chief Nada al-Nashif decried the “intimidation, restrictive measures and sanctions against people [in Russia] voicing opposition to the war in Ukraine”.
These actions, she warned, “undermine the exercise of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental freedoms, including the rights to free assembly, expression and association”.
Al-Nashif, who is serving as acting high commissioner for human rights until new chief Volker Turk replaces Michelle Bachelet, was speaking at the opening of the rights council’s 51st session, which runs until October 7.
Al-Nashif listed concerns about rights in a range of countries. But she took unusually harsh aim at Moscow.
She decried “pressure against journalists, blocking of internet resources and other forms of censorship”, saying such actions were “incompatible with media pluralism and violate the right to access information”.
“We urge the Russian Federation to reconsider measures taken to expand the ‘foreign agent’ label to include individuals considered to be ‘under foreign influence’,” she said.
She also called on the Kremlin to refrain from criminalising “undeclared contacts with representatives of states, foreign or international organisations deemed to be directed against the ‘security’ of the Russian Federation”.
There was no immediate Russian response to al-Nashif’s comments.
Moscow left the rights council in April after it was suspended from the body over its invasion of Ukraine. But it remains an observer and could still speak up when countries debate al-Nashif’s remarks on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, the council ordered a high-level inquiry into violations by Russian troops in Ukraine. The investigators are due to report back on September 23.
There has been growing pressure for the council to also turn its gaze on rights abuses inside Russia itself. Rights groups want the council to appoint a special rapporteur to examine the situation, but so far no countries have agreed to take a lead on such a resolution.
Western countries are wary of what the effect would be if a vote on the issue failed to garner enough support within the 47-member council.
“Everyone agrees there is a need … but what we haven’t agreed on is timing,” one Western diplomat said.
A European diplomat agreed. “The impact of a defeated resolution would be felt for a long time.”