Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the High-Level Segment of the 37th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 10:40

Mr President,

Ladies and gentlemen,

International relations have entered a period of radical change. We are witnessing the development of a rejuvenated democratic and fair polycentric world order. Since this process is compounded by large-scale challenges and threats, we need to join our efforts and align our potentials in order to find the best form of equal and indivisible security, strengthen mutually beneficial economic cooperation and apply the humanitarian standards that we have developed over the past decades.

There were several important dates in the human rights sphere in the past few years. This year we will mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is a good opportunity for reviewing our performance as well as outlining new spheres for the concerted efforts of the international community.

This is especially important, despite the achievements in this field, since we see continued attempts to adjust human rights to one’s own short-term interests, as well as the alarming use of human rights issues as a pretext for putting pressure on “undesirable” and “disagreeable” countries.

Twenty-five years ago, the countries attending the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared unanimously that all human rights, including the right to development, are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. However, 25 years later a group of countries continue to stubbornly insist on the priority of political and civil rights and to disregard economic, social and cultural rights. This directly contradicts the principles of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and has led to mistakes in the choice of mechanisms for the encouragement and protection of human rights.

Today we will have a high-level themed discussion. This year, it was initiated by Russia.

This platform offers broad opportunities for an honest exchange of opinions on problems in the sphere of the human rights and ways to resolve them. We hope that this discussion will help us set right the distortions that exist, alas, in the operation of the UN Human Rights Council.

The main problem at the Human Rights Council is the continued attempts by some of its member states to preserve the dividing lines and to add a political dimension to the Council’s operations. This prevents us from joining efforts to find answers to the common civilisational challenges and to ensure genuine respect for the dignity and value of the individual.

We have taken note of the open unwillingness of some of the Council members to condemn all and any forms of international terrorism under the pretext that this will violate the principle of the freedom of speech. We consider the division of terrorists into “good” and “bad” unacceptable, the most so since this is done depending on the extremists’ stated goals or the sources of their funds. Russia will continue to fight the detestable practice of double standards, in particular, by helping the Syrian Army eradicate the terrorist threat.

The fight against terrorism must be based on the solid foundation of international law and national legislations. In this context, we are deeply concerned about the decision of the US administration to keep open the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, where the inmates who have been incarcerated without any trial are regularly tortured.

We plan to submit to this Council session a draft resolution on the integrity of the judicial system, which is extremely important for ensuring that everyone has equal access to a fair trial. We urge everyone to hold a constructive discussion on this document.

I have to say that accusations of human rights violations are used by some countries increasingly more as a pretext for imposing unilateral economic sanctions, which are illegitimate and have been denounced by numerous resolutions of the UN General Assembly. The Human Rights Council must take a clear stand regarding this wrongful policy that has a direct negative effect on civilians.

Using the pretext of human rights violations for military operations to change governments in sovereign countries is extremely dangerous. Pope Francis has said recently, “One cannot fight evil with another evil.” No matter what one may think about Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi, can those who overthrew them say that illegal intervention has eased human suffering and protected the most important human right, the right to life? The answer to this question is evident. Never in human history has the deliberate destruction of states benefitted common people. On the contrary, it has always resulted in humanitarian catastrophe for the civilian populations. One result of this is the unprecedented wave of illegal migration to Europe, the unparalleled rise in terrorism and the persecution of Christians and people of other religions.

The people of Syria are facing a huge humanitarian crisis. UN Security Council Resolution 2401 has outlined the framework for all parties to coordinate conditions for easing the suffering of civilians throughout Syria. Russia and the Syrian Government have announced the creation of humanitarian corridors in Eastern Ghouta. But the militants and their sponsors are hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid and the evacuation of all civilians who wish to leave, as well as continue to shell Damascus. We urge the member states of the so-called US coalition to provide similar humanitarian access to the Syrian regions they control, including the Rukban refugee camp and the area around al-Tanf. An emergency UN-ICRC mission must be dispatched to review the situation in Raqqa, which the coalition has bombed out and left to its own devices among mine fields and the ruined infrastructure.      

Despite the efforts undertaken against discrimination, xenophobia and radicalism, racism, aggressive nationalism and religious intolerance are on the rise around the world. Ideological radicals go unpunished because some countries give absolute priority to the freedom of expression, assembly and association contrary to Article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

A vivid example of historical revisionism is a recent Latvian law, which gives an equal status to WWII veterans and the Nazi collaborators who are directly responsible for the suffering and death of millions. We are especially concerned about the rewriting of history and the justification of Nazi henchmen in Lithuania, as well as a war on monuments to Soviet soldiers in Poland. SS collaborators are hailed as national heroes in Ukraine, where ultra-radicals wearing Nazi symbols stage sinister torch marches, arson attacks and pogroms, acting as the masters of the country while the nominal authorities just turn a blind eye.

An atmosphere of fear and violence is reigning in Ukraine, with persecution campaigns against journalists and the clergy and the general fight against dissent. Cultural figures are denied entry to Ukraine. Books, radio programmes and television products are prohibited. The number of arson attacks at minority cultural centres as well as diplomatic missions is on the rise. International human rights organisations must react harshly to such infringement on the fundamental rights and freedoms. Of special concern is the Ukrainian law that grossly limits the right of minorities to receive education in their native tongues. Kiev does not take any notice of the Venice Commission’s recommendations that it modify this law.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is now more important than ever to preserve ethnic and religious accord, as well as to create conditions for a peaceful coexistence of people of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. Russia will continue to promote the principles of inter-civilisational dialogue at multilateral venues.

In conclusion, I would like to once again point out the need to pursue human rights within the internationally recognised legal framework. Any attempts to impose lop-sided approaches and to present ultimatums instead of looking for consensus solutions will only hinder collective efforts to protect human rights and moral values that are shared by the basic religions and civilisations.

Thank you. I wish you every success in your work.

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