According to a U.N.-backed expert, the state of human rights in Russia has deteriorated significantly since the start of the Ukraine war.
In her inaugural report on Russia, an expert appointed by the United Nations’ leading human rights organization stated that the rights situation in the country has greatly worsened since President Vladimir Putin initiated his conflict with Ukraine in February of the previous year.
Mariana Katzarova, the special rapporteur on Russia’s rights situation mandated by the Human Rights Council, chronicled the domestic crackdown that has largely targeted critics of Putin’s war as well as other opposition voices in Russia.
On Monday, her publicly released report is distinct from another investigation conducted by U.N.-supported investigators, which has implicated Russia in committing war crimes in Ukraine.
The council has never before granted permission for a rights expert to investigate rights concerns within any of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, namely Britain, China, France, Russia, and the United States.
The report cited figures last month from OVD-Info, which tracks human rights violations, indicating that more than 20,000 people were detained between February last year and June for participating in anti-war protests. More than 600 criminal lawsuits were initiated against “anti-war activity,” it said.
According to the report, more than 50% of the individuals detained for engaging in “peaceful anti-war activism” were women.
Katzarova stated that she had been informed of trustworthy accounts of numerous human rights infringements, such as torture, accusations of rape and sexual violence, and instances of law enforcement officers threatening sexual abuse towards both genders. She mentioned that none of these incidents had undergone an official investigation.
According to the report, the number of organizations and individuals listed as “foreign agents” in the Russian Justice Ministry’s registry reached 649 by the end of July. This represents a growth of over 25% within a span of six months. Additionally, over 100 organizations were classified as “undesirable” by the end of July, potentially leading to their prohibition.
In April of last year, just a short time after Russia forcefully entered Ukraine, the U.N. General Assembly decided to temporarily remove Russia from its position in the human rights council located in Geneva, which consists of 47 member countries.
The mandate of Katzarova, who is Bulgarian, was created a year ago, and she started work in May. Authorities in Russia have refused to cooperate, and said submissions from her team would be “automatically disregarded,” the report said.
According to the report, the state of rights in Russia has been continuously worsening over the past twenty years. However, Katzarova discovered that the situation has deteriorated significantly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
The report was built on consultations with over 60 Russian and international rights organizations and individuals, and nearly 100 written submissions, including from rights advocates and witnesses of rights violations. The rights council is set to discuss it Thursday.
Since the commencement of the conflict, the Kremlin has asserted that a significant majority of Russians back its “special military operation” in Ukraine, while also affirming that individuals who hold a different viewpoint are entitled to their own opinions.
However, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has emphasized that individuals who wish to criticize the government must do so in accordance with the current legal framework.
Putin himself has said that he is “not judging” those “who behaved not like patriots.” He also said last week that one “can disagree” with the Russian authorities “and live here, speak out about it — no one is prohibiting it.”
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