UN rapporteur denounces "systemic repression" in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine

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The UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Russia, Mariana Katzarova, denounced on Thursday that the situation in the country has deteriorated significantly since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year and warned of "systematic repression" against civil society.

The special rapporteur's report, the first on Russia to be presented to the Human Rights Council, alleges that Russian authorities have carried out mass arbitrary arrests of war critics and says those detained are at risk of death. due to the "persistent use of torture and ill-treatment".

Authorities have carried out mass arbitrary arrests of war critics and are at risk of death due to "persistent use of torture and ill-treatment"

"It is still not comparable to the times of Stalinist repressions, in the 1930s, when perhaps some 30 million people perished in gulags for being perceived as enemies of the state or dissidents," Katzarova acknowledged at a press conference at the European headquarters of United Nations in Geneva, where .

"But now is the time, with the mandate that I occupy, with our report, through the press and through the action of the international community, to not allow the situation in Russia to worsen to the level of Stalinist repressions," the former journalist stressed. Bulgarian, with 25 years of experience in human rights matters.

Katzarova, who presented the report to the Human Rights Council this Thursday and this Friday continues her debate with the member states of that body, reiterated to journalists that "Russian civil society has been closed by the authorities, in a country where "There is no independent press or NGOs that function effectively."

It is the first time that the UN Human Rights Council, created 16 years ago, has been mandated to review the record of one of the permanent members of the Security Council. The UN rapporteur recalled that more than 600 civil society organizations in Russia have been forced to disappear due to "draconian laws" approved by the Russian authorities.

The campaign against NGOs has affected "from organizations such as Memorial, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year, to much smaller ones dedicated to indigenous peoples, ethnic minorities or the LGBTIQ community," denounced the rapporteur.

He also recalled that Russia has fallen nine places in the latest Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and now occupies position 164 out of a total of 180.

In the report presented yesterday, Katzarova gave as an example of this persecution of the press the closure last year of one of the last independent newspapers left in Russia, the Novaya Gazeta, and the accusations of "foreign agent" against its editor-in-chief Dmitri Muratov (also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize).

The situation, the rapporteur recalled, worsened with the start of the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and between February 2022 and June 2023 more than 20,000 people have been arrested for participating in anti-war marches and 600 have been prosecuted. among them Oleg Orlov, co-president of Memorial.

The report does not include mentions of possible war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by Russian authorities, something that the rapporteur defended today, arguing that her mandate is not strictly "investigative", so she cannot reach such conclusions. "I am here to observe, monitor and give recommendations to the (Russian) authorities and the international community on how to introduce practical changes," she argued.

Katzarova, who has previously led investigations during the two Chechen wars for Amnesty International, also addressed Russia's attempts to obstruct her rule, saying such actions showed "a lack of political will to fulfill its human rights obligations." ".

Moscow has previously called criticism of its human rights record baseless and denied attacking civilians in Ukraine, where it says it is carrying out a "special military operation" to destroy military infrastructure.

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