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UN Rights Body Should Act Decisively Against Threats to International Rules-Based Order

Accountability needed for grave human rights violations in China, Russia

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

Events of the past six months have shaken the international rules-based order and highlighted the importance of confronting impunity for grave human rights violations. 

The Russian Federation’s countless war crimes in its invasion of Ukraine have shocked the world. At the same time, the government unleashed a “war on critics,” aiming to eviscerate all independent voices. The gravity of the human rights crisis in Russia merits the establishment by the Human Rights Council of a Special Rapporteur on Russia to hold the government to account. 

The High Commissioner’s landmark report on Xinjiang exposes the scope and gravity of the Chinese government’s sweeping violations, targeting Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities. The report describes mass arbitrary detention, torture, involuntary medical treatment, forced labor, family separation, cultural persecution, interference with reproductive rights, as well as intimidation, threats and reprisals. It details the religious profiling of Uyghurs and others as “extremists,” based on indicia such as “wearing hijabs and ‘abnormal’ beards,” “closing restaurants during Ramadan” and “giving one’s child a Muslim name.”  

The report concludes that these abuses may constitute crimes against humanity, requiring “urgent attention by the United Nations intergovernmental bodies and human rights system.”  

Inaction is not an option. We call on the Council’s member states to adopt a resolution to give formal consideration to the report, implement its recommendations, and put in place a robust monitoring and reporting mechanism.  

The common thread is two authoritarian leaders of powerful states committing international crimes with impunity. The Russian government’s violations of international humanitarian law and the Chinese government’s violations of international human rights law show contempt for the international rules-based order. That countries from all regions unite to hold these two states accountable is therefore critical for the future of the UN system.  

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