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Southern African countries divided over Russia’s ongoing military offensive in Ukraine

File Photo: The UN Human Rights Council has found that the fundamental rights of people in Ukraine were under attack and their lives endangered, and that nobody had the right to be idle while this was happening.

File Photo: The UN Human Rights Council has found that the fundamental rights of people in Ukraine were under attack and their lives endangered, and that nobody had the right to be idle while this was happening.

Published Mar 6, 2022

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Cape Town – The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution on Wednesday evening demanding that Russia immediately ends its military operations in Ukraine.

This only a few hours after a special high-level segment of the Human Rights Council heard from 21 dignitaries as it continues a high-level segment, with speakers condemning Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.

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A total of 141 countries voted in favour of the resolution, which reaffirms Ukrainian sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.

UN Assembly president Abdulla Shahid struggled to read the results of the vote as ambassadors began applauding, and then standing up, as he started speaking, according to the UN.

The Human Rights Council who met this week continued its high-level segment, hearing statements from 24 dignitaries from Croatia, San Marino, Angola, Andorra, South Africa, Luxembourg, Brazil, France, Iceland, Greece, New Zealand, Canada, Peru, Morocco, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Sweden, Iran, Turkey, Finland and the Philippines.

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The council found that the fundamental rights of people in Ukraine were under attack and their lives endangered, and that nobody had the right to be idle when this was happening.

The council said more than at any other point in recent history, the principles at the heart of this council’s work, and the entire UN, were being challenged.

The Kremlin was also ramping up its repression within Russia.

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Authorities reportedly detained thousands of Russians peacefully protesting the invasions, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations.

Delegations recognised the council as the multilateral arena for a dialogue that made possible greater co-operation among states for international peace and security.

Other crises in the world such as in Belarus, China, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, among others, have also demanded the council’s ongoing attention.

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The council said the Covid-19 pandemic had tested international solidarity and the ability to work together to protect basic rights, such as the right to life.

Some speakers warned that mental health had emerged as a silent parallel pandemic evidenced by the rising cases of depression, anxiety and suicide worldwide.

The major challenges faced by humanity: climate change, the pandemic and inequality, were all issues that must be tackled with a human rights-based approach, and there should be an internationally binding instrument allowing to tackle future health-based emergencies in co-ordination.

The majority of speakers said the ongoing Ukrainian crisis had devastating consequences for the Ukrainian people, but also for European and global security.

South Africa, who opted to abstain from the vote to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a week ago, said the country remained concerned about the escalating conflict in the East European country.

South Africa along with 33 other countries abstained from the UN’s emergency vote to reprimand Russia for invading Ukraine a week ago.

“Our position as expressed during the discussions of the emergency special session over the past few days, is that South Africa remains deeply concerned by the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine and the regional and international socio-economic implications,” South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, ambassador Mathu Joyini said.

“We strongly urge all sides to uphold international law, including humanitarian law and human rights law, as well as the principles of the UN Charter, including sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement on Wednesday evening that the conflict involved two members of the UN in an armed conflict, which this organisation has at its foundation the responsibility to prevent.

UN secretary-general António Guterres said the answers to some of the world’s most pressing problems are rooted in human rights.

The UN chief stressed the need to act quickly as the situation in Ukraine threatens to get much worse, adding “the ticking clock is a time-bomb”.

A humanitarian appeal launched on Tuesday has been met with “record generosity”, he said, which will allow for a scale-up in the delivery of vital assistance, including medical and health supplies, as well as food, water and protection.

“Looking ahead, I will continue to do everything in my power to contribute to an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent negotiations for peace,” Guterres told journalists.

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine was a clear act of aggression; a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and a violation of international law, all gravely endangering the rules-based world order, the UN said.

The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least 10 weeks. They take place in March (four weeks), June (three weeks), and September (three weeks).

If one third of the member states requests so, the Human Rights Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.

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