Comment by the Information and Press Department on the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council
On March 23, the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council ended in Geneva.
During a month of intensive work, session participants passed over 40 resolutions and decisions on important issues on the international human rights agenda, including the link between human rights and development, efforts to counter torture, guaranteeing the right to privacy, the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. They organised a number of special procedures, conducted eight discussions on specific subjects, including high-level discussions, as well as dialogues with the council’s special sections and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In his policy speech, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the high level session, talked about Russia’s human rights priorities. He also opened the extremely popular photo exhibit Only Wings Matter: Breaking the Stereotypes that highlighted Russia’s positive experience in involving disabled people in cultural and sport activities.
A high level discussion on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Action Programme, initiated by the Russian Federation, made a substantial contribution to the session’s work.
During the session, the Russian delegation consistently defended the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of states, the unacceptability of unilateral coercive measures, commitment to the rule of law, advocated more active efforts to combat racism, neo-Nazism, ethnic and religious intolerance, the protection of ethnic minorities, efforts to reduce the number of stateless persons and to encourage human rights through sport and the Olympic movement’s ideals.
The council adopted the “Judiciary System Integrity” resolution submitted at Russia’s initiative. It contains an unequivocal appeal to states to ensure for all people under their jurisdiction equal access to justice, close all secret detention facilities and abstain from using the fragmentation of the judicial system as a loophole for not fulfilling the obligation on promoting and defending human rights. It is regrettable that the US delegation demanded voting on this draft resolution apparently against the background of Washington’s refusal to abide by its promise to close the special prison at the Guantanamo military base.
Important supplements were included in the updated resolution of the council on human rights and sport, which is traditionally co-authored by Russia. It emphasises the correspondence of IOC activities with the Olympic Charter and the unacceptability of discriminating against athletes.
The Russian delegation drew attention to the serious human rights problems in a number of countries, primarily Ukraine, and emphasised the need to thoroughly investigate the violations and crimes by Ukrainian security service agents. Kiev’s inaction on the Minsk agreements and adoption of laws restricting the rights of national minorities in education and use of native tongue were resolutely denounced.
Russia’s representatives also expressed their concern over US human rights violations, including torture, arbitrary executions, racial profiling, and the position of migrants in a number of European Union countries including Great Britain, preservation of mass-scale lack of citizenship rights in Latvia and Estonia, and the persisting trends towards growing intolerance, radicalism, reduction of media pluralism and harassment of dissidents in the Baltic region and Ukraine,
Regrettably, a number of countries continue using the council to reach their own political goals that are far from true concerns about human rights. This again led to confrontation-prone manifestations that accompanied the discussion of human rights in individual countries throughout the session. Proceeding from opportunistic considerations, some countries, primarily the EU, Ukraine and the US refused to denounce terrorist acts against civilians in Syria and join the appeal not to finance terrorism on much-suffering Syrian soil. We consider this approach not only as a manifestation of double standards but also as an indirect encouragement of terrorism.
It is perplexing that some countries try to put on the Council’s agenda items the elaboration and implementation of which are not within its competence: issues related to the maintenance of peace and security, healthcare, and the struggle against terrorism, drug trafficking and corruption. For our part, we will firmly adhere to the observance of the existing “division of labour” between the relevant UN agencies and avoid the doubling of their functions.
We believe that the equitable and respectful cooperation of states, based on the universally recognised norms and principles of international law, should be the cornerstone of the council’s activities. We welcome the adoption of the resolution on promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in human rights that reaffirms this principle.
We note the growing interest of representatives of Russian civil society in the participation in the Council’s activities and conduct in parallel events on its sidelines.
We will continue striving for the maximum depoliticisation of the Council’s work and preservation of its inter-governmental character because this is the only way of retaining the confidence of the entire international community in this important UN body.