Russia should be thrown off UN Human Rights Council over its role in Syria, global coalition demands

More than 80 human rights and humanitarian groups sign statement ahead of UNHRC elections later this month over alleged war crimes in bombing rebel-held areas of the war-torn country 

Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a government forces air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in the northern city of Aleppo
Syrian civil defence volunteers, known as the White Helmets, search for victims amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following a government forces air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of Bustan al-Basha in the northern city of Aleppo

An international coalition of aid and human rights organisations has called on UN member states to question whether Russia is fit to keep its position on the international body’s Human Rights Council in elections this week because of its actions in the Syrian civil war.

The UN’s General Assembly is selecting new members for the rights body in elections in New York this Friday. Russia, Hungary and Croatia are vying for the chance to represent Eastern Europe – but a statement from more than 80 humanitarian groups released on Monday has asked voting delegations to consider that “Russia’s actions in Syria stand in clear contrast to its rhetorical commitment to human rights”.

UN Resolution 60/251 asks those voting for members of the Human Rights Council “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights”, the statement from signatories including Human Rights Watch, Care International, and several Syrian non-governmental organisations said.

Russia’s use of its veto as a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council to block ceasefire action in Aleppo and its continued support for air strikes show that the country’s “abuses are [not] compatible with the principles and aims of the Human Rights Council”, they said.

Russia has provided financial and logistic support to ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the almost six-year-long conflict, including military assistance from September 2015 onwards. It has come under renewed criticism for air strikes in Syria since the regime’s new campaign to retake rebel-held east Aleppo began in earnest last month.

Residents on the ground and international monitors report that Russian-manufactured cluster munitions – banned under international law because of the indiscriminate damage they cause – as well as napalm, white phosphorous and ground-penetrating ‘bunker-buster’ bombs have been dropped on besieged east Aleppo’s 250,000 residents in the past four weeks.

Family buries children killed in Aleppo airstrike

Up to 500 people have died in the unprecedented attacks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says, and 2,000 have been injured.

Many governments, including the UK, France and US, have accused Russia of war crimes for targeting built-up areas and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, a water-treatment plant, bakeries and emergency response centres, as well as for allegedly bombing a UN aid convoy outside aleppo during a ceasefire on 19 September. Russia denies that its planes hit the humanitarian convoy, and says that strikes in east Aleppo target terrorists who use civilians as human shields.

Russia pledged that if reelected to the Human Rights Council it will “promote states’ compliance with their international human rights obligations”, but the undersigned signatories said Moscow’s continued cooperation with Damascus undermines this stance.

“The credibility and legitimacy of the Human Rights Council rest upon its members demonstrating a genuine commitment to human rights,” the aid group’s statement said.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in