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Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov chose to highlight that “less than half of the [EU] membership have voted in favour” of monitoring the human rights situation in Russia. Photo: AP.

UN rights council to monitor Russia in historic move

  • EU’s first ever resolution to focus on Russia’s domestic situation was voted for by 17 out of 47 countries; 24 abstained, six voted ‘no’, including China
  • Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov saw the vote differently, choosing instead to highlight that ‘less than half of the membership have voted in favour’
Ukraine war

The UN Human Rights Council agreed on Friday to monitor the rights situation in Russia, marking a “double victory” for Western countries after activists against Russian violations won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The top UN rights body adopted its first ever resolution focused on Russia’s domestic situation, deciding to appoint a so-called special rapporteur to monitor abuses in the country.

Presented by all European Union countries with the exception of Hungary, the resolution was adopted with 17 out of 47 council members voting in favour, 24 countries abstained, while six voted ‘no’, including China.

The move came amid concerns over an intensifying crackdown by Moscow as its war rages in neighbouring Ukraine, and the vote landed less than two hours after this year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to banned Russian rights group Memorial, alongside jailed Belarusian activist Ales Bialiatski and Ukraine’s Centre for Civil Liberties.

“It is absolutely a double victory,” France’s ambassador in Geneva Jerome Bonnafont said.

The vote came on the 16th anniversary of the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, which several diplomats pointed to, including German ambassador Katharina Stasch, who insisted it was time “to acknowledge the gravity of the human rights situation inside Russia”.

Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian rights activists win Nobel Peace Prize

Russian ambassador Gennady Gatilov saw the vote differently, choosing instead to highlight that “less than half of the membership have voted in favour”.


“People don’t want to support such a politicised resolution”, he said, after slamming the resolution before the council as “totally divorced from any concern about Russians’ rights, … [and] yet another attempt to punish our country for pursuing an independent foreign and domestic policy”.

Russia left the council several months ago as the General Assembly in New York was voting to expel it over its war in Ukraine, but it maintained observer status there.

The resolution was adopted on Putin’s 70th birthday, something Britain’s ambassador Simon Manley was quick to highlight.

“Happy 70th Birthday, President Putin”, he tweeted under a screenshot of the results of the vote. “It is a decisive vote”, he said. “A significant day for the human rights council, a significant day for those who struggle for freedom and human rights in Russia”.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted its first ever resolution focused on Russia’s domestic situation. Photo: Reuters

While the decision was the first-ever targeting the situation inside Russia, the council has recently adopted other resolutions condemning Moscow’s war in Ukraine, and ordering a high-level probe of violations by Russian troops there.


Friday’s text calls for the appointment of a special rapporteur to monitor “the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation for a period of one year”.

The rapporteur would “collect, examine and assess relevant information from all relevant stakeholders, including Russian civil society both inside and outside the country,” and present a report in a year’s time, and another to the UN General Assembly in New York.


Western countries were breathing a sigh of relief with the passage of the resolution, which came a day after they suffered a crushing defeat at the council when a first-ever attempted resolution on China was narrowly rejected.

That one – which called for a debate about a UN report warning of serious violations and possible crimes against humanity in China’s Xinjiang region – flopped after intense lobbying by Beijing.

The failure indicated a shifting power balance and even raised questions about the credibility of the council itself, rights groups said.