Joint Statement on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Russia
Item 4: Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
Human Rights Council – 49th Session
Cross-regional joint statement as delivered by Ambassador Zbigniew Czech, Permanent Representative of Poland
on behalf of a group of over 50 states including the United States
March 21, 2022
I have the honour to the deliver this joint statement on behalf of over 50 states.
We, the signatories to this statement, are concerned about the dramatically deteriorating situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the Russian Federation over the past 12 months. This has particularly manifested in recent days in the context of Russia’s brutal, unprovoked, and unjustified aggression against Ukraine.
In 2021, during the 46th session of this Council, 45 states expressed their concern about the human rights situation in Russia. Sadly, developments in the intervening period prove that these concerns were well-founded. We are concerned about the steps Russia has taken to suppress a growing number of dissenting journalists and independent media outlets; arbitrary arrests of dissident activists, trials seeking eliminate political opponents; and profound restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right of peaceful assembly. Particularly concerning is a continuous use by the authorities of repressive laws on ‘undesirable’ organizations, under the pretext of fighting extremism and terrorism, or allegations against individuals of acting as “foreign agents” to suppress civil society, media, and political opposition. We express great alarm at recently adopted Russian legislation that would punish those who contradict the Russian government’s false narratives about its war against Ukraine with up to 15 years imprisonment.
Most recently, we are concerned by attempts made by Russian authorities to silence all critical voices, including those of Russian citizens protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We are appalled by the unjust detentions of more than 13,000 individuals who exercised their right of peaceful assembly during nationwide protests and by unnecessary and excessive use of force by police during the after the arrests. Likewise, we are shocked by growing restrictions placed by Russian authorities on access to reliable and credible information, including demands to remove content on the war in Ukraine from the internet; censorship of media outlets and blocking of social media platforms.
These new restrictions are the latest part of a long-standing campaign by Russian authorities to shrink the space for freedom of opinion and expression more broadly. Just one example of this campaign occurred on February 28, when the Russian Supreme Court upheld a decision to forcibly close down Memorial International, one of the oldest, best-known and most distinguished Russian NGOs, whose activists have been at the forefront of defending human rights and seeking historical truth and reconciliation in post-Soviet Russia. This plunges the future for all NGOs in Russia into uncertainty.
We also reiterate our concerns once again about the continued arbitrary detention of political prisoners, particularly in the case of Alexei Navalny. We are monitoring Mr Navalny’s latest court hearing closely and repeat our calls for him to be released without delay.
The human rights situation looks set to continue to deteriorate at an increasingly sharp rate in the coming months, even compared to the past year. We join numerous international organizations in their calls for Russia to immediately release all those it has arbitrarily detained for participation in peaceful anti-war demonstrations, end all sweeping restrictions on independent media, and allow the people of Russia to have free access to information on Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine. We urge the Russian authorities to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of peaceful assembly, and to freedom of opinion and expression.
We will continue to monitor the situation in the Russian Federation.