UN human rights body extends mandate for investigator of Russia

GENEVA (Reuters) – The top U.N. human rights body on Thursday adopted a resolution extending the mandate of an independent expert to document alleged human rights abuses in Russia that activists say have drastically increased since its invasion of Ukraine last year.

Eighteen members of the United Nations Human Rights Council voted in favour of the resolution, with 22 abstaining and seven voting against it.

“The Special Rapporteur is one of the last avenues for civil society to bring international attention to their important work and to give a voice to those who risk their lives,” Katharina Stasch, Germany’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, told the Council.

Special Rapporteur Mariana Katzarova last month said that the human rights situation in Russia had significantly deteriorated since the country invaded Ukraine in February last year, describing a “systematic crackdown” on civil society.

She said in a report that Russia had adopted laws to “muzzle civil society and punish human rights activists and others for their anti-war stance.”

Moscow has previously called criticism of its rights record unfounded.

When the special rapporteur’s mandate was created last year, it marked the first time the U.N. Human Rights Council was authorized to examine the record of one of the United Nations’ so-called “P5” members, which hold permanent seats on the Security Council.

“This resolution is not a reflection of politicization but reflects the need to ensure that human rights are universally respected,” said Michèle Taylor, permanent representative of the United States to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

“No country is above scrutiny, no matter how upsetting or embarrassing they find it, no matter how strong their military is, no matter how wide the reach of their proxies, and no matter how aggressively they threaten or cajole other countries,” Taylor said.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Mark Porter)