Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov’s remarks at a high-level panel of the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, February 28, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
The current global situation is distinguished by rapid changes in the system of threats and challenges and their transnational character. New dangerous seats of tensions are added to old conflicts. There is a high risk of religious and civilisational splits. All of this is having a negative effect on people, whose fundamental rights, including the right to life, are violated increasingly often.
These negative trends call for revising our approaches to strengthening the security of states, societies and individuals. Our top priority is to maintain the stability of the world order, because it is difficult to ensure human rights in an unstable environment.
Recent events have shown yet again that human rights cannot be effectively protected without strengthening global and regional stability. We can see the consequences of the illegal actions to change unsuitable governments in the Middle East, where the actions allegedly designed to spread democracy have let the genie of terrorism out of the bottle. This has disrupted the delicate balance that took centuries to develop and led to rampant extremism and persecution of religious minorities. Some countries have neared the brink beyond which lies the loss of sovereignty. This is a tragedy for millions of civilians, including women and children.
Russia supports the people of the Middle East and North Africa in their striving for a better future and efforts to root out the terrorist threat and implement reforms in the interests of national reconciliation and respect for the rights of all ethnic and religious groups.
Unfortunately, terrorism has grown into a global threat. Last year, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was killed in a terrorist attack.
We believe it crucial for the UN initiatives against terrorism to be based on international law and respect for the principles of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. I would like to stress again that the collective efforts of the international community should be focused on combating the main threat – terrorism, and that assistance to the affected states must not lead to the enforcement of alien development models on them.
The situation in Ukraine, which has still not normalised following the anti-constitutional coup d’etat, is cause for concern. Kiev uses various pretexts to avoid its commitments under the Minsk Agreements, including carrying out constitutional reforms that would serve to guarantee the lawful rights and interests of citizens in Eastern Ukraine. The authorities have incited and encouraged a rise in ultra-right activity, including that of groups which openly use Nazi symbols and call for ethnic cleansing. The situation has reached the point where extremists block transport routes and prevent deliveries of coal from Donbass in what constitutes a deliberate and mass-scale violation of the social and economic rights of people in many parts of the country.
Regrettably, we see today a new increase in tension and an escalation of this fratricidal war. Ultra-right forces continue to free run and the authorities in Kiev are either powerless or do not wish to rein them in.
We hope that the UN’s human rights and humanitarian organisations will work to normalise this situation and secure the implementation of the Minsk Agreements’ provisions.
Unfortunately, human rights rhetoric serves increasingly frequently to justify unacceptable methods that individual countries use to pursue their own political and economic aims on the international stage, interfere in sovereign states’ internal affairs, and carry out unilateral coercive measures and military action that result in suffering for ordinary people.
At the same time, we see attempts to give free interpretation to international obligations, together with a reformatting of the work of the UN and its agencies, and this undermines the UN’s intergovernmental nature and the principle of sovereign equality of all member countries. Reforms of Secretariat departments, including the OHCHR, often go ahead without the member countries’ consultation and approval. This is the case, in particular, with the plans to give the OHCHR control, monitoring and even quasi-judicial functions and empower it to carry out investigations and even take part in peacekeeping operations.
The push to affirm the Human Rights Council’s exclusive role as the main human rights body within the UN system is a worrying sign. A number of delegations propose that the Council have full autonomy and independence and ignore its accountability to the Third Committee, which expresses the views of all UN members. The proposals to establish a direct link between the Human Rights Council and the UN Security Council are equally counterproductive.
We think that this line of setting the Human Rights Council against the Third Committee and the General Assembly is harmful and will only end up further discrediting the Council. The Human Rights Council should take a more considered approach to examining various initiatives, should not emphasise the quantity of resolutions, but should put priority instead on quality drafting and reaching a consensus, and should take into account the position of all UN member countries on a particular issue.
Today it is more important than ever to uphold the principle of equal treatment of all categories of human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. They are as universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated today as when they were proclaimed at the Vienna World Conference in 1993.
Special attention should be paid to preventing and rooting out manifestations of racism, xenophobia, ethnic and religious intolerance, as well as the spread of radical views and neo-Nazi ideas. It is unacceptable when soldiers who fought on the side of the anti-Hitler coalition are proclaimed outlaws while Nazi collaborators with blood on their hands are called national heroes.
We are deeply concerned about the growing intolerance towards representatives of traditional confessions and religions, the exploitation of religion by various radical and terrorist groups, discrimination and religious persecution in a whole range of regions, including the persecution of Christians.
In this context, I would like to draw your attention to the joint statement signed by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia and Pope Francis a year ago in Havana in which they call on the international community to take urgent measures to stop the mass exodus of Christians from Middle Eastern countries. We would like to thank all partners who supported our joint initiative with Armenia, the Vatican and Lebanon to hold the conference, “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as Prerequisite for Interreligious Peace and Stability: Support for Christians and Representatives of Other Religions.” The conference will take place on March 7. It will be attended by high-level church officials (Russia will be represented by Metropolitan Illarion), as well as government officials and experts in this area. We hope that would help not only to discuss the existing challenges and threats, but also to search for ways to overcome them, relying on the experience of many religiously diverse countries.
The issue of discrimination in sports, including the Paralympics, requires serious consideration. As you know, on February 24 the International Olympic Committee published on its website a letter by IOC Director-General Christophe De Kepper, in which he addresses heads of national Olympic committees. The document says that at the latest meeting in Lausanne where the controversial McLaren Report was considered, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) admitted that in many cases, there was not enough evidence against Russian athletes to sanction them.
Thus, it took six months to recognise that the decisions of the International Paralympic Committee and the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne suspending Russian athletes from the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were unsubstantiated. The damage caused by these decisions to the Paralympic movement and sport in general is still not fully understood. We consider it unacceptable to use sport and international sports events as a means of political pressure.
The Human Rights Council has developed good traditions of mutually respectful dialogue, which we should cherish. Unfortunately, some delegations use human rights platforms, including the HRC, for planting openly politically charged draft resolutions that have little in common with real concern for human rights. For example, the Ukrainian draft resolution of the UN General Assembly on Crimea is evidence of abuse of the UN human rights platform for making territorial claims and settling political accounts. It is indicative that such initiatives usually do not receive a majority vote. This approach is fomenting confrontation at the HRC and the Third Committee and can only lead to further polarisation and division at these agencies.
It is regrettable that this trend is becoming characteristic of resolutions on specific human rights themes. The alleged “new look” at the human rights concept is sometimes used to enforce alien views and values that provoke conflicts and divisions. This is limiting the opportunities for consistent joint work towards asserting worldwide respect for human rights based on an equitable and mutually respectful dialogue.
In conclusion, I would like to stress that the diversity of the modern world and all its cultural, religious and civilisational manifestations must be respected and accepted as an axiom. The world is polycentric in all its dimensions, including the dimension of human rights. We see the earnest of the HRC’s effectiveness in stimulating unity in the diversity of this world.
Thank you for your attention.