Over 80 human rights and aid organizations have urged the United Nations member states to expel Russia from the Human Rights Council over its military campaign in Syria.
The appeal was launched ahead of elections to fill 14 seats at the 47-nation council. Russia, Hungary and Croatia will be running for two seats representing the Eastern European group at the world’s foremost human rights body.
In a statement released on Monday, the signatories – which include Human Rights Watch, CARE International and Refugees International – called on UN members to question whether Russia’s role in Syria renders it fit to serve on the body’s human rights institution. They stressed that Russia’s role in Syria includes supporting and undertaking military actions which have routinely targeted civilians and civilian objects.
UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251 says those voting for members of the Human Rights Council need to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights.” This guidance applies to candidates’ efforts to protect and promote human rights in their own countries and abroad.
The statement pointed out that “Russia’s actions in Syria stand in clear contrast to its rhetorical commitment to human rights. Member states should particularly consider Russia’s indiscriminate attacks, its substantial weapons deliveries to the Syrian government and its efforts to prevent impartial accountability for serious crimes in Syria.”
“Moreover, member states should consider Russia’s decision, on October 8, 2016, to veto a credible draft UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending atrocities in Aleppo. This was its fifth use of a veto on a resolution concerning Syria at the Security Council. Since September 19, 2016, Russian and Syrian forces have bombarded opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo. The attacks included the use of barrel bombs, cluster munitions, and incendiary weapons, and damaged or partially destroyed at least five hospitals in six separate attacks, Human Rights Watch research shows,” the statement added.
Signatories went on to say that “Syrian-Russian joint military operations, which began on September 30, 2015, have extensively used internationally banned cluster munitions. They have also increasingly resorted to the use of incendiary weapons, with at least 18 documented attacks on opposition-held areas in Aleppo and Idlib between June 5 and August 10.”
“In one notable incident, a humanitarian convoy seeking to deliver life-saving aid to Aleppo governorate was attacked on September 19, 2016, by either Russian or Syrian forces. In the past month, indiscriminate airstrikes on opposition controlled eastern Aleppo have also had a devastating impact on civilians.”
The statement added: “The credibility and legitimacy of the Human Rights Council rest upon its members demonstrating a genuine commitment to human rights. When deciding which Eastern European candidate to support, member states should carefully consider whether Russia’s Syria abuses are compatible with the principles and aims of the world’s principal inter-governmental human rights body.” (Source: Syrian Coalition + Al-Hayat Newspaper)