23 September 2013
Russia rejected most of the concrete and substantial recommendations made at the session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday, 20 September in Geneva as the result of the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one of the procedures within the UN human rights framework that sees each state presenting a detailed report on its human rights situation for the past four years. Each country then accepts or rejects recommendations from other states and voluntarily commits itself to implement the recommendations it accepted.
During discussion of Russia’s report at the UN HRC session in April 2013 representatives of other states on numerous occasions pointed out issues that are “sensitive” for the Russian authorities. First of all, these issues were related to the situation with fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of assembly, association and expression, as well as xenophobia, homophobia and LGBT discrimination.
Among other recommendations there were demands to drop or amend recent laws, including the “foreign agents” law and the ban on “homosexual propaganda”; the Russian delegation sought to convince their colleagues that these laws are in line with the international human rights commitments of the Russian Federation.
As the authorities of the country faced serious criticism, they decided to take time-out until September, instead of making an immediate decision on the recommendations received. As a result, Russia accepted 148 recommendations out of 231, and 15 more were accepted in part. The head of the Russian delegation, Deputy Minister of Justice Georgy Matyushkin, tried to present this as a hallmark of “the commitment of the Russian Federation to the goals and principles underlying the UPR.” His words were warmly welcomed by the delegations of such countries as Cuba, Vietnam, Venezuela, Laos, Uzbekistan, etc. However, the comments that followed from representatives of NGOs had a more critical character.
“Unfortunately, Russia rejected most of the concrete and substantial recommendations; those that were accepted have quite broad and general wordings. The authorities refused to make concrete commitments to adopt or reject particular pieces of legislation or to ratify new international treaties. Instead, they agreed to ‘cooperate’, ‘activate efforts’, or ‘encourage further steps’,” says Konstantin Baranov, a board member of the International Youth Human Rights Movement.
Such a selection of recommendations clearly makes the future monitoring of their implementation more difficult and will enable the authorities to state during the next review cycle that they succeeded in “activating and encouraging” without actually having done anything to improve the situation.
Russian and international NGOs have been active participants in the UPR process from the very beginning; they presented their own alternative reports and worked with foreign delegations, and they intend to monitor implementation of the recommendations and encourage the Russian authorities to ensure observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms. An ad-hoc working group will be created by civil society organisations for this purpose.
Representatives of the International Youth Human Rights Movement, Agora Human Rights Association and OVD-Info project took part in the UN HRC session as observers.
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review - Russian Federation
Views on conclusions and/or recommendations, voluntary commitments and replies presented by the State under review
For further information and comments:
+79054562412 – Konstantin Baranov
+79102288449 – Anna Dobrovolskaya