Human Rights Group Calls for Russian, Chinese Atrocities to Be Laid Bare

A leading human rights organization is calling on the U.N. Human Rights Council to appoint a special rapporteur to investigate and document human rights violations within Russia as the best way to curtail atrocities in Ukraine.

Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth is making the appeal in advance of the council’s four-week session, which begins next week. 

He said President Vladimir Putin’s harsh crackdown on political dissent, heightened censorship and disinformation within Russia is designed to avert opposition to the war in Ukraine and the atrocities being committed there in the name of the Russian people. 

The appointment of a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Russia would lift this veil of ignorance, Roth said. He added that Putin cares tremendously about the views of the Russian people and his efforts to curtail free speech within the country are all geared toward reducing dissent. 

“Even though Putin is an autocrat, even though he sits at the end of his COVID-induced isolation table seemingly making decisions on his own, he is attentive to Russian public opinion,” Roth said. “And so, therefore, a kind of moral holistic approach to trying to address the atrocities in Ukraine would ensure that the Russian people are able to speak.” 

Turning to another issue, Roth said High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has missed a great opportunity to hold China to account for its mass incarceration of nearly 2 million Uyghurs in secretive detention camps in Xinjiang. 

He described the high commissioner’s recent visit to China as an unmitigated disaster, saying she was skillfully played by Beijing and completely adopted Beijing’s framework. 

“There was no condemnation from Madame Bachelet, even remotely commensurate with the severity of the atrocities being committed in Xinjiang,” Roth said. “She never called them crimes against humanity. She never called them much of anything. She just was there for her discussion.” 

Bachelet had said her trip to China last month was intended as an opportunity to discuss human rights with senior officials and “pave the way” for continued talks. 

What rights groups call internment camps, China calls educational and vocational centers. It denies that Uyghurs are involuntarily detained and mistreated. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other organizations have raised serious concerns about the treatment of ethnic Uyghurs. 

Roth urged Bachelet to immediately issue her long-awaited report on China’s crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, saying Beijing responds to pressure. He noted the high commissioner has the power to exert public pressure to shame and condemn Beijing for what it is doing in Xinjiang. 


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