“The third-party submissions received in February 2023 expressed, among others, the following views:
– That the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation is neither independent in practice nor willing to address pressing human rights issues, and that room for criticism and independent action by the Commissioner appears severely restricted, especially after the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022.
– That Russia has more than 500 political prisoners and is waging a war of aggression in Ukraine that is widely condemned by the international community, and that institutions such as the OCHR survive mostly to lend credibility to the Russian government’s claim that it is democratically elected and based on the rule of law.
– That Aleksey Navalny is a political prisoner and is treated inhumanely by prison authorities, that the OCHR ignores the attacks on his fundamental rights and freedoms, and that the
OCHR’s position in this respect show that it is cooperating with the propaganda operatives who seek to undermine Mr Navalny in the eyes of the Russian public.
The SCA shared the third-party information with the OCHR. The OCHR responded on 8 February 2023, and expressed the following views:
– That it is an independent body highly trusted by the citizens of Russia, as confirmed by public opinion surveys.
– That, in 2022, more than 700 unlawful decisions of authorities and officials were cancelled at the request of the OCHR, and the rights of 54,000 Russian citizens were restored; and that the OCHR had assisted more than 5 million refugees who had arrived in Russia since February.
– That, in cooperation with the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, hundreds of prisoners of war have been exchanged, the whereabouts of dozens of missing persons have been established, and families separated by the conflict have been reunited.
– That it has reviewed 52 appeals regarding issues related to the conditions of Mr Navalny’s detention, his placement into a punishment cell, the access to his lawyers, and the provision of the necessary medical assistance. Further, that in March 2021, following appeals by the OCHR, Mr Navalny received medical consultations and medical treatment. The OCHR also informed that, among other things, at the OCHR’s request Mr Navalny’s detention conditions were inspected, and that they were concluded to be in compliance with the legislation of the Russian Federation and with international standards.
In making its own assessment and determination on the accreditation status of the OCHR, the SCA also considered public statements, and other documents issued by the OCHR including public statements issued by the OCHR Commissioner expressing support for the conduct of the “Special Military Operation” by the Russian Federation, and endorsing the consequences of the “referenda” in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The SCA notes that there are multiple and credible reports of gross human rights violations perpetrated by Russian authorities in the current context, and that the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/ES-11/4 has referred to the “referenda” as illegal.
Based on the information before it and the lack of response from the OCHR for further information to satisfy the SCA concerns relating to impartiality and independence, the SCA is of the view that the OCHR is operating in a manner that seriously compromises its independence. In particular, the OCHR is not acting independently when considering human rights violations committed by Russian authorities, and is supporting positions and actions of the Russian authorities against international norms. Therefore, the SCA urges the OCHR to restore its actual and perceived independence, when promoting and protecting human rights.
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’.”