Top envoys to attend UN rights council
GENEVA – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will help kick off the latest and longest-ever session of the U.N.’s top human rights body on Monday, with Iran’s foreign minister, a senior Russian envoy, and the top diplomats of France and Germany among scores of leaders set to take part.
The more than five-week session of the Human Rights Council opens as the world grapples with rights concerns including Russia’s war in Ukraine, repression of dissent in Russia and Belarus, new violence between Palestinians and Israelis, and efforts to solidify a peace deal in Ethiopia that ended two years of conflict between the national government and rebels in the Tigray region.
The council, made up of 47 member countries, takes up an extensive array of human rights issues – including discrimination, the freedom of religion, right to housing or the deleterious impact of economic sanctions targeting governments on regular people – as well as country “situations” like those in Afghanistan, Syria, Myanmar, Nicaragua and South Sudan. It usually meets three times a year.
Proponents say the Geneva-based rights body has grown in importance as a diplomatic venue because the U.N. Security Council in New York has been increasingly divided in recent years due to a major rift between affiliations among its five permanent members: China and Russia on one side, Britain, France and the United States on the other.
On Monday, among the speakers after Guterres and the presidents of Congo, Montenegro and Colombia, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will come up between Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and France’s Catherine Colonna. China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, is set to make a statement by video.
Amirabdollahian’s visit comes in the wake of vociferous and continued protests that erupted in Iran after the death
in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the country’s morality police.
Moscow is set to be represented at the highest level since Russia suspended its council membership last year – largely because the U.N. General Assembly was on the cusp of stripping it.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, known more for his expertise on defense matters, is set to attend on Thursday. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to speak by video message the same day.
A year ago, scores of diplomats walked out of the council chamber as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared by video, to express their opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine days earlier. He had originally been set to attend in person but many Western countries closed their airspace to flights from Russia after the invasion.
In the session, the United States is likely to try to keep pressure on China over its record on issues including a crackdown on pro-democracy activists and others in Hong Kong, longrunning concerns about Tibet, and others about the western region of Xinjiang – on which former U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet issued a scathing report last fall just minutes before she left office.