“The third-party submission received by the SCA expressed, among others, the following views:
– That the OCHR closely cooperates with the human rights ombudspersons of the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, which they consider to be surrogate entities established by Russia in Eastern Ukraine to mask its occupation. Further, that these institutions are typical creations of the Russian government aimed at creating a semblance of respectability and covering up international crimes.
– That, at the end of September 2022, Russia unilaterally declared that the Ukrainian Donetsk and Lugansk regions, and two others (Kherson and Zaporizhzhia), were parts of Russia. Further, that Russia’s aggression is a serious violation of international law and its warfare is accompanied by war crimes on a massive scale and crimes against humanity, and that there are also features of the war that have given rise to fears that genocide is taking place in areas of Ukraine under Russian control. Nevertheless, that the OCHR Commissioner summoned the ombudsperson of Donetsk to an all-Russian gathering of ombudspersons in mid-November 2022, thereby recognizing her office as a Russian institution. That, in this as in other acts, the OCHR has shown itself to be neither independent in practice nor willing to address pressing human rights issues.
In response to these allegations, the OCHR expressed the following views:
– That it is its duty to protect the rights of Russian citizens wherever they are, and that 70% of citizens in Donbas are Russian. Further, the OCHR claims that human rights violations, including genocide, have targeted Russians on the territory of Donbas after the so-called illegal seizure of Kiev in 2014.
– That the interaction with the ombudspersons in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Lugansk People’s Republic had made it possible to ensure the evacuation of hundreds of citizens from the war zone and to provide humanitarian assistance to the people remaining there; and
– That, in June 2021, the SCA reaccredited the OCHR with A status. The OCHR also referred to the SCA report commending its efforts in discharging its mandate.
In making its own assessment and determination on the OCHR accreditation status, the SCA also considered:
– reports of forced transfers of children, including those under institutionalised care, from Donetsk, Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions to other regions in Russian occupied territory, as well as reports of deportations of children to the Russian Federation4
– the official position of the OCHR denying the reported illegal transfers and deportations of children from the territory of Ukraine that are under effective control of the Russian Federation, and
– reports of serious human rights violations and crackdown on human rights defenders, civil society organization, and the media in the Russian Federation.
Based on available information and the lack of response from the OCHR to address the SCA concerns, the SCA is of the view that the OCHR has not effectively engaged and publicly addressed various human rights issues of serious concern, including in the context of the armed conflict. Further, that the OCHR has not acted nor spoken out in a manner that promotes and protects all human rights, hereby seriously compromising its independence and credibility. The SCA is concerned that, in some instances, the OCHR has taken positions denying allegations of egregious human rights violations by Russian authorities, including allegations of war crimes such as the unlawful deportation and transfer of children by Russian authorities. NHRIs are expected to promote and ensure respect for all human rights, democratic principles and the strengthening of the rule of law in all circumstances, and without exception. Where serious violations of human rights are imminent, NHRIs are expected to conduct themselves with a heightened level of vigilance and independence.
The SCA urges the OCHR to take proactive steps to promote and protect all human rights, including monitoring serious allegations of human rights violations and speaking up where violations have been committed, in an independent and effective manner.
The SCA refers to Paris Principles A.1, A.2, A.3, and C(c) and to its General Observations 1.2 on ‘Human rights mandate’ and 2.6 on ‘Limitation of power of National Human Rights Institutions due to national security’.”