Geneva, October 7: The UN’s top human rights body voted on Friday to appoint an independent expert to step up scrutiny of Russia’s rights record at home as arbitrary arrests, a crackdown on dissenting voices and limits on free speech worsen during the war in Ukraine.
The 47-member Human Rights Council passed the proposal, presented last week by all European Union member countries except Hungary, on a 17-6 vote, with 24 abstentions.
Shortly before the vote in Geneva, Russian human rights group Memorial was named a co-winner of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.
The original proposal expressed concerns about “mass forced shutdowns” of independent media, non-governmental organisations and opposition groups in Russia.
The Human Rights Council majority agreed to name a “special rapporteur” to keep tabs on rights violations in Russia, in part by relying on help from Russian groups and activists who are both still in the country and abroad.
The council previously appointed a Commission of Inquiry the UN-backed body’s highest form of scrutiny that is looking into rights abuses related to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Russian government has taken a number of steps to limit domestic dissent over the war, including passing a law that criminalises spreading “fake” news about Russia’s military.
Russia was a member of the Human Rights Council until earlier this year, when it suspended its participation as the UN General Assembly was set to strip the country of its membership due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Friday was the last day of the council’s fall session. A day earlier, member countries rejected a proposal, first floated by the United States and several other Western countries, to hold a debate over alleged human rights abuses in China’s Western Xinjiang region. (AP)