June 20, 2024

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Ukraine’s “gross” violations are in focus during a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission

Ukraine’s “gross” violations are in focus during a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission
  • UN forum held one year in the Ukraine war
  • Ukraine did not welcome the presence of the Russian official
  • The council session is seen as a test for the new UN human rights coordinator

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations human rights chief condemned Russia’s “senseless” invasion of Ukraine on Monday at the start of a session of the Human Rights Council in which countries want to step up scrutiny of Moscow’s alleged war crimes and stress China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims. .

Volker Türk, the United Nations High Commissioner, warned in one of his first addresses to the 47-member council that human rights gains are reversing and even reversing, pointing to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an example of repression.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a separate letter that the war had led to “gross violations” of rights.

During the meeting, which runs until April 4, several countries will seek to extend the mandate of a United Nations investigative body set up to investigate atrocities in Ukraine.

Kiev, which has called for the creation of a special tribunal to try Russia’s political and military leadership over the invasion, said the body was necessary to ensure Russia was held accountable.

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“We think it should be a technical extension of the mandate but also significantly strengthen the text,” Yevgenia Filippenko, Ukraine’s permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, told reporters on Friday.

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Kiev and its allies feel discontent with the participation of Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who will address the council on Thursday.

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It will be the first time a Russian official has come from Moscow in person since the war began a year ago. Russia, which denies committing war crimes or targeting civilians in Ukraine, was suspended from the council over the invasion in April but can still participate as an observer.

Western diplomats have been publicly silent about their reaction to Ryabkov’s presence after walking away from a speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the council last year. Ukraine does not welcome the Russian presence and will act accordingly, Filippenko said, without elaborating.

The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council is the only intergovernmental body to protect human rights around the world. It does not have legally binding powers, but its arguments often bring intense scrutiny to cases and can spur investigations that feed evidence for national and international courts.

Other high-level foreign ministers scheduled to attend its final session include Iran’s Hossein Amirabadollahian, Germany’s Annalina Berbock, and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi.

Countries will also be watching closely how Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights since October, points to China after some rights groups accused his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, of being soft on Beijing.

Rights groups accuse Beijing of abuses against the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority of about 10 million in Xinjiang, including the mass use of forced labor in internment camps. The United States and some foreign lawmakers and parliaments have accused China of genocide.

China has strongly denied these allegations.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tetro-Farber and Emma Farge, Editing by Debbie Babbington and Nick McPhee

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