The rights situation inside Russia has substantially worsened since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, a top UN expert said Monday, decrying the “persistent use of torture”, including molestation.
“The situation of human rights in the Russian Federation has significantly deteriorated since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights situation in the country, Mariana Katzarova, said in her first report.
The dramatic degradation came after “the situation had already been on a steady decline over the past two decades, in part a legacy of two wars in Chechnya that ended in 2009”, she said.
Katzarova, who last April became the first-ever monitor of the Russian rights situation appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, described how Russian authorities had “severely curtailed the freedoms of association, peaceful assembly and expression, both online and offline.”
They had also “fundamentally undermined the independence of the judiciary and the guarantees of a fair trial,” she said, lamenting that a range of administrative sanctions were “being applied arbitrarily against dissenters and force used against peaceful protesters”.
“Both the harshness of recent criminal sentences and the number of people sentenced on politically motivated charges have increased,” the report said.
Katzarova, whose appointment came after a historic rights council vote a year ago created her mandate, said she had documented how recent legislative restrictions were being used to “muzzle civil society”.
“The often-violent enforcement of these laws and regulations has resulted in a systematic crackdown on civil society organisations that have closed civic space and independent media,” she wrote.
“It has led to mass arbitrary arrests, detentions and harassment of human rights defenders, peaceful anti-war activists, journalists, cultural figures, minorities and anyone speaking out against the war of the Russian Federation on Ukraine.”
The expert, who is due to present her report to the Human Rights Council later this week, also described how women, in particular those working as rights defenders, activists or journalists, had “suffered specific gender-based violence, humiliations and intimidation”.
“The persistent use of torture and ill-treatment, including gender-based violence, puts at risk the life of people in detention.”
Katzarova highlighted how “the environment of impunity, the unpredictability of changes to the law, in addition to their ambiguity”, had forced many Russians into exile.