“This Council session was an important one for the region. The Council voted to establish a Special Rapporteur on Russia, and we were able to highlight key human rights issues in Eastern Europe. This wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work and excellent cooperation from the network of Human Rights Houses and other civil society partners.”

Dave Elseroad, Head of Advocacy, Human Rights House Foundation

HRHF welcomes the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Russia but the Council’s work is not done

On 7 October 2022, HRHF applauded the UN Human Rights Council and thanked it for voting to establish a Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Russia.

“Today’s action must be seen only as a first step and we call on the Council to maintain a fixed view on Russia and to take all necessary steps to ensure that Russian civil society and human rights defenders remain connected to the international community.” – HRHF reaction to successful vote on Special Rapporteur mandate.

The vote followed mounting calls from Russian civil society advocating for their voices to be heard as more and more avenues for engagement with the international community closed, as well as in the wake of an increasingly hostile environment in the country for human rights defenders, including new amendments to the “Foreign Agents” law.

State delegations in Geneva heard from Russian civil society on the state of human rights in the country, and on their call to establish a Special Rapporteur during the side event “Addressing the human rights crisis in the Russian Federation”.

The increasingly alarming human rights situation in Russia was the subject of a side event organised by HRHF and Russian civil society on 22 September 2022, where speakers reiterated the call for a Special Rapporteur. The call for the Council to establish the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was further reiterated by HRHF in a statement delivered on 27 September.

In May 2022, representatives of Russian civil society appealed to the Human Rights Council to establish a Special Rapporteur, citing extreme concern about the “catastrophic situation in which Russian civil society is placed and the destruction of fundamental rights and freedoms in the country”. Russian civil society repeated the call in August and in September 2022.

International civil society, including Human Rights House Foundation, has supported the calls of Russian civil society in letters and statements in May, July, and September 2022.

Addressing Russian aggression against Ukraine & the wider human rights crisis in Eastern Europe

At HRC51, HRHF continued its work alongside Ukrainian civil society partners to draw attention to the situation in Ukraine following the launch of the full-scale Russian invasion, and in calling for Council action.

On 23 September, at the interactive dialogue with the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, HRHF delivered a statement on the human rights situation in Ukraine with a particular focus on the situation for enforced disappearances as reported by network of Human Rights Houses member, ZMINA.

Ukraine was also the focus of a side event focused on human rights violations and militarisation in Crimea co-organised on 3 October by HRHF and Ukrainian civil society partners. The event highlighted how the situation in the occupied peninsula has deteriorated since the launch of the full-scale invasion in February. 

The following day, HRHF delivered a statement at the Council, again highlighting the human rights situation in occupied Crimea citing several prominent cases of unjustly detained or imprisoned persons.

During the Council session, HRHF met with the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and raised the issue of reprisals across the region. The issue of reprisals was also raised by HRHF in a statement delivered on 29 September. HRHF argued that recent expansions to Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation put Russian civil society’s ability to cooperate with the UN and other international bodies at risk. Similarly, HRHF warned that the targeting of Belarusian human rights defenders and organisations that have had previous cooperation with the UN has reached frightening levels. HRHF asked the Council what more could be done by the Human Rights Council to support Russian human rights defenders and organisations seeking to engage with international mechanisms in the face of tightening domestic legislation.

HRHF additionally participated in the negotiations of resolutions on human rights in the Russian Federation and on the Safety of Journalists to ensure they were as strong as possible. Both resolutions were subsequently adopted by the Council.On 6 October 2022, Human Rights House Foundation delivered a statement at the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council on the situation in Georgia including human rights in the occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. HRHF also called on the Georgian authorities to ensure adequate protection for Russian and Belarusian human rights defenders, forced to flee their countries and who are temporarily residing in Georgia.

HRC51 statements

HRC51 side events