Russia and China for the first time in the dock at the Human Rights Council
Russia and China, two permanent members of the UN Security Council, will, for the first time in the history of the UN Human Rights Council, be targets of draft resolutions.
Western countries and their allies have been reluctant for several months to accuse Russia and China, fearing they would not be able to build an alliance strong enough to have the texts approved by a majority of the 47 member states of the Human Rights Council.
But non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been increasing pressure for the main UN human rights body to take an interest in the situation in Russia and in the Xinjiang region of northwest China, where Beijing is accused of crimes. against humanity.
Western countries ended up getting the charges, which will have two phases.
Last week, the member countries of the European Union (EU), except Hungary, presented a draft resolution asking the Council to appoint a special rapporteur to monitor the human rights situation in Russia for a period of one year, an initiative that Moscow considered as “politically biased”.
The move comes amid concerns about intensifying repression in Russia as the war continues in neighboring Ukraine.
Today, it was the United States, supported by the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, that launched a draft resolution to request a debate in the Council, to be held in February and March 2023, on human rights. situation in Xinjiang.
Other countries, however, may co-sponsor the text in the coming days.
In the general discussions, the Czech ambassador to the Human Rights Council, Vaclav Balek, speaking on behalf of the EU, emphasized that the 27 asked the UN body to closely monitor and assess the human rights situation in China.
The very brief text takes note of “the interest in the assessment” published on 31 August by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
“This Council must be able to discuss the report and its follow-up must be equal to the conclusions”, said today the French ambassador to the commission, Jérôme Bonnafont.
For several years now, China has been accused – with physical and documentary evidence – by Western countries and human rights organizations of having locked more than a million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minorities, including Kazakhs, in detention camps in Xinjiang.
Beijing rejects the accusations, claiming to fight terrorism and ensure the region’s development.
In the report, High Commissioner Bonnafont does not speak of genocide, but evokes possible “crimes against humanity” and “credible evidence” of torture and sexual violence, urging the international community to act.
Beijing has vehemently rejected the accusations and accused the UN of becoming “the servant and accomplice of the United States and the West”.
In recent weeks, behind the scenes in Geneva, China has exerted significant pressure on countries to try to prevent any move against Beijing.
“We are not afraid,” Xinjiang Communications Office director Xu Guixian said last week.
“We are ready to fight”, assured Guixian to the press in Geneva, guaranteeing that China will take “appropriate countermeasures”.
The two resolutions will be put to the vote of the 47 member states of the Council on 6 or 7 October.
However, polls in this direction do not allow a clear result for both sides.
Unsurprisingly, during today’s debates in Geneva, Russia and China received support from countries like Cuba and Venezuela, which are staunchly opposed to any interference by the Council.
Other countries, such as Muslim-majority Pakistan, have also argued that the Xinjiang issue remains a Russian “internal affairs” issue.
As for the African member countries of the Council, which Western states regularly manage to convince, they have been silent. Only Malawi’s representative, Mathews Gamadzi, spoke regretting that the Council is “paralyzed by politicization”.
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