Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the High Level Segment of the 43rd Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Geneva, February 25, 2020
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, when the situation in the world is becoming more and more complicated, when old hotbeds of tensions have not been resolved, and when new ones emerge, the task of devising new approaches to ensuring humankind’s stable and sustained development that meet the spirit of the times is coming to the fore. Obviously, people, with all their needs and rights, will benefit most from all these efforts. Russia consistently proceeds from the need to devote equal attention to all human rights categories, and not just civil and political rights, but also to economic, social and cultural rights. Otherwise, it would prove impossible to protect the interests of socially vulnerable populations, including women, children, large families, senior citizens, people with disabilities and unemployed persons.
Unfortunately, the approach of Western countries aiming to replace generally recognised norms of international law with a certain rules-based international order hampers joint constructive efforts to comprehensively guarantee human rights. Fundamental socioeconomic rights are ignored, while political rights are liberally interpreted in an aggressive manner and over-emphasised. Accusatory rhetoric, including the so-called resolutions dealing with specific countries, is used more and more often as a pretext for meddling in the domestic affairs of sovereign states and imposing illegitimate unilateral sanctions. Quite often, they are used during attempts to change undesirable governments which don’t share the highly dubious “values” that have been unilaterally invented by the West and which ignore the cultural and civilisational diversity of the modern world. This faulty practice incites confrontation and eventually hinders the ability of individuals to realise their legitimate rights.
Reliable guarantees of rights and freedoms have nothing in common with double standards. One cannot help but be surprised over the fact that some Western colleagues paying lip service to democracy deliberately turn a blind eye to the glaring suppression of fundamental human rights in Ukraine. The openly discriminatory laws On Ensuring the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language and On Education, as well as the bills On the Media and On Countering Misinformation that have been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, trample upon the rights of national minorities and de facto establish state censorship. Not only do these innovations run counter to Kiev’s international obligations, but they violate the Constitution of Ukraine. Although the Venice Commission has confirmed their discriminatory nature, Ukrainian authorities have done nothing to rectify this situation; nor do they intend to do so. I consider it a matter of paramount importance that the UN Human Rights Council assess this unacceptable situation and demand that the rights of all national minorities without exception be unfailingly honoured. We should not forget that the Minsk Agreements, which were approved by the UN Security Council and which have no alternative, also call for this.
Serious problems can be seen in other states as well. In the Baltic countries, the suppression of media freedom, the prosecution of dissent and the infringement of the rights of ethnic minorities, including the shameful status of statelessness, have become standard practice. Extremist parties, movements and groups that spread the ideology of Nazism, racial superiority, discrimination and xenophobia are feeling increasingly confident.
We urge our Western colleagues to use their influence on their protégés. In response, we hear tentative references to concern about freedom of speech and peaceful assembly. In fact, it turns out that Western democracy thus greenlights the spread of Nazi ideology, the praise of Nazi minions and torchlight processions under the Waffen SS banner. This "political correctness," in fact, justifies the anti-human ideology.
To feed someone’s self-serving interests, there are an increasing number of attempts to revise not only the Nuremberg Trial verdicts, but also the internationally recognised outcome of World War II. A drive to falsify history is taking on an increasingly cynical form. Civilised Europe is bashfully silent, as it continues to watch the sacrilegious “war” on monuments and memorials in honour of those who, at the cost of their lives, saved the peoples of the continent from total extermination. Perpetuating the memory of the murderers and criminals involved in the "implementation" of the theory of racial superiority is hushed up as well. This orgy of forgetfulness must be stopped. Victory in WW II must be declared the historical heritage of humankind.
Of major concern are attempts to use the religious factor as a tool in geopolitical games. Inter-religious faults are getting wider, and religious shrines in different parts of the world are being increasingly desecrated. Believers and clergy are attacked, persecuted or killed. The number of Christians, who have lived in the Middle East for centuries, has declined sharply, or they have disappeared from this region altogether. The international community and the UN Human Rights Council must block the path to the extremists who rear their heads. So far, some of our colleagues, whether they want it or not, have been focusing on justifying the mayhem caused by radical and terrorist groups. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the exhortations on the possibility of concluding a ceasefire agreement with these criminals as is the case when discussing the situation in Idlib. This is not concern for human rights, but capitulation to terrorists or even emboldening them in flagrant violation of universal conventions and numerous UN Security Council resolutions.
An unprecedented migration crisis is connected directly with rampant terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa stemming from NATO aggression against Libya in 2011. To permanently resolve this crisis, it is necessary to eliminate the root causes that force people to leave their homelands. Stabilising the situation in the countries in the region by promoting an inclusive national dialogue and, most importantly, ending illegal interference in their domestic affairs and observing the principles of the UN Charter has come to the fore. This approach, rather than the attempts to use human rights slogans in geopolitical games will make it possible to find a sustainable long-term solution to the problems facing common people and to ensure their rights starting with the most important, the right to life.
Modern challenges and threats are of a global and cross-border nature. To overcome them successfully, it is important to strengthen existing multilateral institutions, to maintain an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding in interstate relations, and to decisively eliminate double standards. The United Nations Human Rights Council can and should contribute to these efforts. We consider the council a key tool that is designed to ensure a constructive, depoliticised and multilateral dialogue based on universally agreed to and generally accepted criteria. It is futile to impose on anyone the “values” that reflect the state of public morality of a small group of states, no matter how much they may think of themselves.
Human rights discussions should be representative and pluralistic. For these purposes, Russia has nominated itself for election to the Council for 2021-2023. I would like to assure you that we will make every effort to advance collective principles in its work with the aim of developing consensus approaches and saying no to confrontation.