The UN must act to protect civilians & human rights defenders & hold Russia accountable

Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Urgent Debate on Ukraine

Delivered by Susan Wilding

CIVICUS stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and calls for a swift, unified and targeted international response on Russia.

The protection of human rights defenders, journalists and activists must be a priority. Human rights defenders and journalists have a responsibility to document human rights violations, a role which is critical for the international community to hold the perpetrators responsible. In a letter to the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights a few days before the Russian invasion, the United States expressed serious concerns about information in its possession, that Russia has created lists of people including journalists, activists and minority groups whom they plan to kill or send to camps.  All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to protect human rights defenders, journalists and civilian populations and guarantee the free flow of humanitarian aid where necessary.  

An act of aggression on this scale needs commensurate response. We call upon the Council to create an investigative and accountability mechanism to monitor, investigate and document human rights violations so that perpetrators can be identified and held to account.

Russia is rated as repressed on the CIVICUS Monitor and journalists and activists have long been the target of government crackdowns It is clear that a nation that does not respect the rights of its own people will not respect the rights of others. In this context, Russia has no place as a member of the premier human rights' body of the UN and we join calls for Russia to be suspended from Council membership.

Civic space in Ukraine is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor 

*Photo: © Michael Swan