The Special Procedures’ Independence threatened at the Human Rights Council

This is an onsite edited excerpt of the G|O Briefing newsletter

The Human Rights Council’s 46th Session was nearly suspended last week when Russia, Venezuela, and China attempted to put an end to its deliberations using a procedural measure to block the continuation of debates. The three countries argued that the proceedings of the Council should be stopped since the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joe Cannataci, had not presented his report on time.  

A vote was held on Friday upon Moscow’s request. Thirty-one members voted against the suspension of the Council, while six voted in favor, and nine abstentions were registered.

However, using Cannataci’s failure to report on country visits is seen by Western ambassadors and observers as a pretext for attempting to rein in the Special Procedures and strip them of their independence. This was no coincidence.

One week before the attempt to block the Council, Russia’s brutal violations of human rights were denounced by Agnes Callamard and Irene Kahn. The two UN rapporteurs demanded an international investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny remain a priority.  

“We believe that poisoning Mr. Navalny with Novichok might have been deliberately carried out to send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticize and oppose the Government. Novichok was precisely chosen to cause fear,” said Agnès Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, and Irene Khan, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The two UN experts published an official letter sent to the Russian authorities in December 2020. In it, the experts detail the evidence pointing to the very likely involvement of government officials in the poisoning, presumably at a high level.