4 November 2022
The UN Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) has published its concluding observations on the human rights situation in Russia, in which it called for the laws on ‘fake news’ and discrediting of the Russian Army to be overturned altogether and for the first time recommended against the use of facial recognition systems. Furthermore, the HRC advised Russia to repeal or revise its laws on ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’.
The UN HRC has prepared a review of human rights violations taking place in Russia. This followed three instances in which a Russian delegation failed to come to the UN to discuss human rights issues in the country. On three occasions, lawyers from OVD-Info sent alternative reports to the HRC and contributed to the Committee’s review.
The HRC is recommending that Russia undertake certain actions to meet its international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This relates in particular to the recommendation to ‘repeal or bring into line with international standards’ legislation on ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’.
Moreover, the UN is for the first time recommending against the use of facial recognition systems. The authors have also criticised the use of preventive arrests to hamper participation in peaceful assemblies.
The HRC stresses the need to repeal all laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression, including Criminal Code articles 207.3 (‘on fake news’), 275.1 (‘clandestine co-operation with a foreign government, international or foreign organisation’), 280.3 (‘discrediting’ [the army]), and 284.2 (‘calls for restrictive measures against Russia, Russian citizens or Russian legal entities’). The UN experts have also recommended that the Russian authorities refrain from adopting any further restrictions incompatible with exercising the right to freedom of speech.
The members of the HRC paid particular attention to the following issues:
- Increasing harassment of opposition politicians, journalists, lawyers, and human rights defenders;
- Criminal prosecutions and disciplinary proceedings against lawyers, particularly in connection with defending participants of anti-war protests; pressure faced by the lawyers Dmitry Talantov, who was jailed on the charge of spreading ‘fake news’ about the army (Art. 207.3 of the Criminal Code), and Ivan Pavlov, who was forced to flee Russia due to persistent pressure from the authorities;
- The laws on ‘fake news’, ‘discrediting’ [the army], and criminal liability for calls for sanctions [against Russia];
- The ban on journalists covering the war in Ukraine using information from non-Russian government sources, as well as blockings and fines for violations of this ban. The UN is aware that more than 20 media outlets have been suspended;
- Numerous and consistent reports of restrictions of the freedom of assembly, including refusal of the authorities to authorise peaceful protests – in particular anti-war protests, alleged arbitrary detentions of thousands of participants in such protests, and violent response of law enforcement officials;
- Adverse consequences that may arise on exercising the right to freedom of assembly following the introduction of Article 280.4 of the Criminal Code (‘On public calls for activities aimed against the State security’), i.e. a fine or imprisonment for two to four years;
- The use by the authorities of facial recognition systems that are not regulated by law;
- The recent expansion of legislation on ‘foreign agents’.
Russia must now provide information on the implementation of the recommendations made by the UN Committee by 4 November 2025, and submit a new report on the human rights situation in Russia by 6 November 2028.
Translated by Lindsay Munford