China and Russia are facing possible action by the UN’s top legal body after historic draft resolutions against the two powerful permanent members of the Security Council.
The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva often investigates and seeks to curb abuses within countries, but has so far not dealt directly with the two heavyweights.
A damning UN report warning of possible crimes against humanity in China’s Xinjiang region and concerns about escalating crackdowns in Russia while the war in Ukraine rages on have put massive pressure on the West and its allies to act.
Western nations have taken unprecedented steps against the two giants, despite fears that a failed resolution would signal a shift in power relations and weaken the 47-member council.
Earlier this month, all European Union countries except Hungary agreed to draft a resolution calling on the Human Rights Council to appoint a so-called special rapporteur to monitor violations inside Russia, in a move Moscow described as “politically motivated.” “ criticized.
And on Monday, the United States submitted the first-ever draft resolution to the Council, which focused on China and called for “a debate on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” during its next session.
The Council will vote next week on the draft text, co-sponsored by the UK, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Norway, with others expected to join.
– “Can’t keep silent” –
“As innocuous as it looks on the surface, this is quite significant… It puts China on the Council’s agenda,” a diplomatic source told AFP.
“This modest but significant step will begin the much-needed review of widespread human rights abuses by the Chinese authorities,” said John Fisher of Human Rights Watch.
During a general debate on Monday, a long list of countries expressed their concerns about China and Russia.
“We cannot ignore such serious and systematic human rights violations,” British Ambassador Simon Manley said of the situation in Xinjiang.
“This Council cannot, must not remain silent.”
China faces intense scrutiny after the United Nations’ Xinjiang report was released on August 31, which highlighted “credible” allegations of widespread torture, arbitrary detention and violations of religious and reproductive rights.
It brought UN support for longstanding allegations by activists and others accusing Beijing of arresting more than a million Uyghurs and other Muslims and forcibly sterilizing women.
Beijing vehemently rejected such allegations and sharply criticized the report.
– ‘Ready for battle’ –
China has launched a full-scale offensive since the current Council session began two weeks ago, sending a large delegation from Xinjiang to Geneva to hammer in the “truth” about the situation.
Asked how China would respond to a council resolution, Xu Guixiang, head of the Xinjiang government’s information office, told reporters Beijing would “resolutely take appropriate countermeasures.”
“We are not afraid. We are ready for battle.”
During Monday’s debate, a senior Xinjiang official, Shawkat Imin, said some western countries were trying to “instrumentalize human rights issues to destabilize Xinjiang.”
He was supported by diplomats from many countries, including Pakistan, whose representative criticized “meddling in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights”.
Malawi’s representative Mathews Gamadzi also appeared to support China, saying the council had “become selective and paralyzed by politicization”.
Malawi was the only country out of 13 African councilors to speak.
Gamadzi’s comment could raise concerns that African members, who often move as a bloc, might vote against one or both texts.
If a large enough number votes against, it could weaken the resolutions.