In the News April 13
Disinformation About War Crimes in Ukraine
UN Members Speak Out Against Politicization
of Human Rights
During the April 7 debate at the UN General Assembly on the U.S.-initiated draft resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council and after it was passed, several countries took the floor to explain their vote. Many of those who abstained or voted No emphasized that suspending Russia before an impartial, objective investigation into the events in question had been carried out was jumping the gun and a denial of due process.
Most noted that a resolution was passed by the Human Rights Council on March 4 which mandated the formation of an independent international Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and that the Commission had not even commenced its work yet. Several of those who voted No opposed the politicization of human rights and use of the human rights machinery of the UN to selectively punish certain countries while others are never sanctioned.
Several countries said suspending Russia would impede the search for a peaceful, negotiated solution to the conflict in Ukraine.
Cuba’s permanent representative to the UN, Pedro Luis Pedroso, denounced the selective use of the controversial suspension article, saying now that the U.S. is back on the Human Rights Council after boycotting it during the Trump years, it wants to seize control and eliminate countries selectively. The General Assembly will never suspend the U.S., he said, “despite its blatant and massive violations of human rights as a result of invasions and wars of plunder against sovereign States, in accordance with its geopolitical interests. They have caused the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians, whom they call ‘collateral damage;’ millions of displaced persons and mammoth destruction throughout our planet´s geography, but this Assembly has never suspended any of their rights.”
China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun said the resolution had not even been drafted in an open and transparent manner, avoiding the tradition of holding consultations with the entire membership to seek their opinions. Instead, members were confronted in a hasty manner with the draft resolution and forced to choose sides on it, something he said would aggravate divisions among countries and intensify the contradictions between the parties concerned.
Speaking directly to the coercive “diplomacy” the U.S. and some of its NATO partners are known to practice, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic let it be known that his country was pressured under the threat of sanctions to back Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. His country’s initial decision was to abstain, he said, but what followed were “countless instances of tough pressure” which he also referred to as blackmail. “They said — do you know that a decision is being made whether Serbia will be exempted from the package of sanctions on [Russian] oil, and whether it will be able to import oil after May 15?” Unlike the EU, Serbia has not imposed sanctions on Russia. He said if sanctions were imposed on Serbia it would be a like a “nuclear strike” for the country.
The European Union said in its statement that Russia’s suspension was necessary to uphold the integrity of the Human Rights Council, the authority of the General Assembly, and the credibility of the UN Human Rights System.
Canada’s UN Ambassador Bob Rae, whose shameful use of hyperbole is well-known, accused Russia of killing civilians, bombing maternity hospitals and blatantly lying about it, and asserted that “none of these facts are in dispute.” To Rae and other NATO apologists, on-the-ground reports and eyewitness testimonies by people about what the “heroes” of Ukraine wearing Nazi insignia on their uniforms have been up to in their towns and cities are nothing more than lies and “Russian propaganda.” Thus, they argue, there is nothing to investigate.
The U.S. Ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said with a straight face that the United Nations took a step in the right direction “by ensuring that violators of human rights would not be able to occupy a position of leadership on human rights.”
Given that the U.S. president and top officials as well as those of other NATO member countries have long since passed judgment, adopting without question the version of events they have prompted the Ukrainian government to give, and responded to by sending it more weapons and imposing even harsher sanctions and other forms of retribution against Russia, an impartial forensic investigation to discover what really happened is not in their interest.
Asked if he would support an independent investigation into the events in Bucha, Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s permanent representative to the UN, said it was a question of who was doing the so-called independent investigation. “We’ve seen lots of independent investigations which were not independent at all because they were politically motivated, biased,” he said.
Human Rights Council Resolves to Carry out Inquiry
On March 4, 2022, the UN’s Human Rights Council condemned “in the strongest possible terms the human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law resulting from the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation.” It called for the immediate cessation of its military hostilities and “the swift and verifiable withdrawal of Russian Federation troops and Russian-backed armed groups from the entire territory of Ukraine.” It also called for the formation of an independent international Commission of Inquiry to “investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation, and to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses” and to identify, where possible, entities and individuals responsible for such abuses, with an eye to holding them to account.
The Commission of Inquiry is to be comprised of three human rights experts to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, a position currently held by Ambassador Federico Villegas of Argentina. Argentina voted with the U.S. and NATO on April 7 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. It also voted in favour of an earlier General Assembly resolution that blamed “Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” for the conflict.
TML Daily, posted April 13, 2022.