A large high-powered Russian delegation of 36 legal and human rights experts has failed to persuade a United Nations watchdog committee that the government has complied with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Russia was one of six state parties to the convention whose record came under review by the 18-member Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD, during its latest three-week session, which ended Friday.
The committee, which monitors member states’ implementation of the convention, expressed deep concern about “the grave human rights violations committed during the ongoing armed conflict by the Russian Federation’s military forces and private military companies against those protected under the convention, particularly ethnic Ukrainians.”
Committee member Mehrdad Payandeh said that since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the committee has received reports of severe human rights violations and abuses including “instances and practices of excessive use of force, killings, extrajudicial and summary executions, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence” attributable to the state party.
The committee also has received information about the forcible transfer and deportation to the Russian Federation of inhabitants, particularly children from territories in Ukraine occupied under the effective control of the Russian Federation.
“We have addressed these concerns,” said Payandeh. “Again, the Russian Federation did not comment on those concerns or provide any more information.
“We raised our concerns in our concluding observations and recommended to the state party to investigate and to end these practices, so far as they are in violation of the convention,” he said.
The Ukrainian government in mid-April reported that more than 19,384 children have been deported to Russia and the fate of many thousands more remains unclear. The U.N. and human rights organizations say many children allegedly have been given for adoption to Russian families.
On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government’s children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for the war crimes of unlawful transfer and the deportation of children.
Earlier in April, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe opened an investigation into the forcible transfer and deportation of children to the Russian Federation from parts of Ukraine under Russian control.
The U.N. committee said it also has received disturbing reports of incitement to racial hatred and propagation of racist stereotypes against ethnic Ukrainians and of alleged forced mobilization and conscription into the army both within the Federation and on other territories under its effective control. Payandeh noted that these practices “disproportionately affect members of ethnic minorities, including Indigenous peoples.”
CERD’s review of Russia’s record, which began April 12, got off to a shaky start. The Russian delegation refused to discuss and respond to questions posed by the committee on issues related to the armed conflict and the convention rights of residents of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based in Sevastopol.
The Russians argued that it was inappropriate to discuss the issue of Crimea due to a case pending at the International Court of Justice.
“We laid our position that we did not find anything in the ongoing procedures in front of the International Court of Justice [that] would hinder us from assessing the situation,” said Payandeh.
“The refusal of the Russian Federation to address these issues did not hinder us from addressing them in our concluding observations.” But, he added, “It made our work more difficult, and we would have liked to engage in a constructive dialogue.
“The purpose of this exercise with the Russian Federation is to raise our concerns, to hear their observations and then to come to our conclusions,” he said.
The committee accused the Russians of destroying and damaging Crimean Tatar cultural heritage, of imposing restrictions on Crimean Tatar’s political and civic rights, as well as harassing, threatening and instigating the assassinations of human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, and journalists.
Committee members are calling on the Russian Federation to carry out impartial investigations into all reported cases of human rights abuse cited in its final observations. They are also seeking an end to the practice of forced mobilization and conscription of members of Crimean Tatars and Indigenous peoples in Crimea and in the ongoing armed conflict with Ukraine.
Russia has not yet commented on CERD’s report. The committee says it expects the Russian Federation to present a follow-up report within one year on questions raised regarding the armed conflict in Ukraine, on the rights of residents in Crimea and Sevastopol, as well as the situation of stateless persons, and undocumented and irregular migrants.