A UN human rights body comfortably passed a motion on Friday to appoint a new independent expert on alleged human rights abuses in Russia, accusing Moscow of creating a “climate of fear” through repression and violence.
Members voted 17 in favor and six against, with 24 abstaining. The move is the first time that the 16-year-old Human Rights Council has set up a Special Rapporteur to examine the rights record of one of its so-called ‘P5’ members, which hold permanent seats on the Security Council.
“We want it to be clear today that we didn’t forget those who struggle for freedom at home while (Russian President Vladimir) Putin represses the Russian people and carries out oppression overseas,” Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Simon Manley, told Reuters right after the vote.
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Nearly 50 countries brought the motion including Britain, all EU countries, barring Hungary, as well as the United States, Ukraine, Japan and Colombia. Those who voted against were China, Venezuela, Cuba, Eritrea, Bolivia and Kazakhstan.
The move follows stronger Russian laws this year to punish people Moscow says discredit the armed forces or spread fake information, and the forced closure of human rights groups, including Memorial, which won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said the motion contained a “stream of false allegations.”
“This draft resolution is one more example of how Western countries are using this council to obtain their political goals,” he said.
China’s envoy Yang Zhilun accused the Western countries who tabled the motion of double standards on human rights, pointing to problems with racism and migrants at home.
The 47-member council is deeply divided, with a growing chorus of countries led by Russia and China opposing any action against specific countries, which they say amounts to political meddling.
Friday’s win comes as a relief to Western countries after the historic defeat of a China motion on Thursday.