- 27 Feb 23
Referring to the address of Russia‘s Foreign Minister in the last year, Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko said: "We believe that Russia does not deserve to sit in the room. We will act accordingly."
The United Nations Human Rights Council meets today (February 27th), more than a year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, to unanimously condemn Moscow and to broaden the investigation into war crimes committed during this conflict.
Moscow's war is dominating the opening of the UN's top rights body's annual main session in Geneva, just days after the UN General Assembly unanimously called on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine.
"We're looking for this session to show, as the UN General Assembly showed, that the world stands side-by-side with Ukraine," British ambassador Simon Manley said at an event marking the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion.
It is expected that the meeting, which will be led by Volker Türk, the new UN rights chief, will last a record-breaking six days.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres will address the Council at the beginning, followed by 150 ministers and heads of state and government. Speeches will thus be made virtually or in person during the four-day high-level segment.
Human rights are not a luxury that can be left until we find a solution to the world’s other problems.
They are the solution to many of the world’s other problems.
Today I told the @UN_HRC that we must make human rights a reality in the lives of people everywhere. pic.twitter.com/9EamZi4ju6
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) February 27, 2023
Alongside top diplomats from the US, China, Ukraine, and Iran; Tánaiste Micheál Martin attended the meeting to address the UN Human Rights Council as well as the 2023 Conference on Disarmament today.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that its goal is to "reaffirm Ireland‘s longstanding commitment to human rights" and "condemn Russia‘s aggression against Ukraine."
Mr Martin expressed Ireland's concern about the shrinking civil society space and the rollback of women's and LGBTQI+ people's rights. He also emphasised the impact of conflict on the enjoyment and realisation of human rights around the world.
The Tánaiste will address recent Russian announcements about nuclear weapons at the Conference on Disarmament, while also emphasising the essential role that disarmament and non-proliferation play in international peace and security.
On Thursday, 2nd March, Moscow‘s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov will visit the council in person to hold a speech.
At last year's meeting, many diplomats walked out after the video-address of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's was played.
Despite calls from non-governmental organisations, observers believe another walkout is unlikely this year. Some diplomats, however, suggested that other steps could be taken to express their displeasure.
Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko told reporters: "We believe that Russia does not deserve to sit in the room. We will act accordingly."
This morning in the UN Human Rights Council more than 140 diplomats refused to listen to Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov’s futile attempt to justify unacceptable military aggression. Watch them leave the Council Chamber. pic.twitter.com/Syox5sTvaD
— Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger (@tichy_e) March 1, 2022
Aside from Russia, the council has to deal with several pressing human rights issues, including Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, and many others, like Ethiopia.
Since the Ethiopian government rejected the findings of a Council-appointed investigation team, numerous violations have occurred during the two-year Tigray war that may now be considered crimes against humanity.
As a result, human rights activists and diplomats were particularly concerned about efforts to obstruct the Council's investigation into the situation in Ethiopia.
They further argue that the crimes committed must be investigated as soon as possible and warned that a early ending of the investigation would set a dangerous precedent for other Council-ordered investigations.
US ambassador Michele Taylor added: "We oppose the precedent that it would set, and we do not think that it is helpful for their current process."
Amnesty International chief Agnes Callamard warned that such a move "would mark an unconscionable betrayal of the hundreds of thousands of victims in Ethiopia".
On the last days of session, which end on 4th April, these and other resolutions will be voted.
The voices of civil society, human rights defenders, and ordinary people around the world must be heard. The United States is committed to elevating these voices and ensuring that they inform our work at #HRC52. pic.twitter.com/oCszmDOHDv
— Ambassador Michèle Taylor (@USAmbHRC) February 27, 2023
A key resolution will be the focus on the investigation into the crimes committed in Ukraine since Russia‘s full-scale invasion. With the Commission of Inquiry, which already determined that Russia is committing war crimes on a „massive scale“, a comprehensive report is about to be presented tot the council in late March.
Ambassador Filipenko told reporters that the commission must "continue its important work, which is of paramount importance for the principles of accountability and justice.“
Mentioning that the "many developments“ over the pas year „should be reflected,“ she further said that her country was pushing for not only extending but als strengthening the commissions‘s mandate.
There is still concern that further tightening of the text will cost votes in the Council. This could give the impression that the Council is weakening in its opposition to Russia's actions.
In a vote last year, 32 of the 47 members voted in favour of establishing the commission, while Russia and Eritrea voted against it and 13 countries abstained.
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