Ukraine: Briefing on incitement to violence leading to atrocities – Ukraine

Tomorrow morning (June 21), the Security Council will hold a briefing on the situation in Ukraine. The meeting, convened by Albania, will focus on “incitement to violence leading to atrocities”. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, and two civil society representatives are expected to be briefed. The participation of Ukraine and Lithuania is expected under rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Council.

Almost four months into the Russian military offensive, the humanitarian situation across Ukraine continues to deteriorate rapidly, with more than 10,000 civilian casualties. On June 20, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). documented 4,569 dead and 5,691 injured. In addition, about 12.1 million people have been displaced by the hostilities, according to an OCHA humanitarian organization on June 15 Impact Report. This includes 7.1 million internally displaced persons and five million refugees who have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries.

At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to express very different views on the impact of hate speech and incitement to violence in relation to the war in Ukraine. Ukraine and several Council members – including the US and the European Council – have accused Russia of spreading false narratives about Ukraine and using it as a pretext for its invasion. These member states claim that Russia’s dehumanizing narratives amount to hate speech and prompted Russian troops to commit atrocities against Ukrainians during the war, including in areas temporarily under Russian control, such as the city of Bucha.

For its part, Russia has long accused the Ukrainian authorities of systematically undermining the interests of ethnic Russian minorities living in Ukraine. On December 22, 2021, against the background of its military buildup on the borders of Ukraine, Russia organized an Arria Formula meeting on “The situation of national minorities and the glorification of Nazism in the Baltic and Black Sea regions”. At that meeting and on other occasions, Russia has argued that Kyiv had been overrun by the Nazis and that violent nationalism posed an existential threat to ethnic Russians living in Ukraine. At the Arria formula meeting on December 22, 2021, the US accused Russia of using the Arria formula format to “amplify its disinformation against Ukraine” while the United Kingdom said Moscow used the meeting to “distort history for its own political ends.” (For background information see our December 21, 2021 What’s in blue Story.)

More recently, since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has accused Ukrainian troops of committing war crimes, including against Russian prisoners of war. She has also argued that Western countries and international mechanisms such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission willfully ignore these violations. Russia has also categorically denied any allegations of atrocities committed by its troops in Ukraine. She has accused Ukraine and the West of fabricating evidence and spreading false narratives about what happened in Bucha and other northern towns and villages. Russia has taken such positions on several occasions, including during a May 6 meeting on the Arria formula it organized. (For background information see our 5th of May What’s in blue Story.)

At tomorrow’s meeting, Nderitu could describe the impact of hate speech on the conflict in Ukraine and urge constructive dialogue between the parties to find a peaceful solution. On a March 18th Expression, Nderitu expressed her commitment to supporting reconciliation efforts in Ukraine and called for prioritizing dialogue initiatives to find an end to the conflict. On April 6, Nderitu entered expression Condemn the alleged atrocities committed by Russian forces while in control of Bucha and call for an independent investigation leading to criminal accountability for the killings of civilians.

Tomorrow’s meeting follows the first International Day to Combat Hate Speech, which was celebrated on June 18, in accordance with the General Assembly resolution of July 21, 2021 on “Promoting Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue and Tolerance in Combating Hate Speech ‘ took place. During a high-level General Assembly meeting to mark the occasion, held this morning (June 20), Albania said that “unchecked, hate speech and disinformation have the potential to endanger peace and development as they lay the groundwork for create conflicts and tensions, [and] widespread human rights violations. It also stressed that “tackling hate speech and its destructive power must remain an urgent priority for the international community”.

At tomorrow’s session, some members may also comment on the role of misinformation in fueling the conflict in Ukraine. On a May 4th joint statement, Representatives and reporters from various international organizations on freedom of expression – including the United Nations, the African Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the OSCE – have expressed concern about the spread of disinformation about the war in Ukraine in Russian state-owned media and on digital and social media -Media platforms. The statement stressed that propaganda for war and national hatred – which constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence – is prohibited under Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and called on Russia to “immediately cease these illegal practices.” .

Concerns about Russia’s disinformation campaigns prompted Twitter to do so introduce restrictive measures against Russian government accounts on April 5. On April 27, the EU announced a ban on the operation of Russian state television channels in Europe and on May 25 revealed plans to improve its code of practice on online disinformation and is demanding that social media companies commit to a series of measures aimed at reducing the spread and spread of fake news.

Several council members could highlight the role of tech and social media companies in limiting the reach of inflammatory statements by political actors and disinformation. In his message On the occasion of the International Day to Combat Hate Speech, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that hate speech “dehumanizes individuals and communities” and that “the internet and social media have accelerated hate speech, allowing it to spread like wildfire across borders”. The Council is increasingly committed to hate speech online and its impact on international peace and security. On October 28, 2021, Kenya and the UN Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect jointly organized a closed Arria Formula meeting on the topic Addressing and countering hate speech and preventing incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence on social media. The aim of the meeting was to facilitate a dialogue between Council members, the UN and social media companies to improve responses to hate speech and incitement in conflict situations.

Some Council members may emphasize the important role religious leaders play in countering hate speech. On June 16, the UK imposed sanctions on Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, for his “prominent support for Russian military aggression in Ukraine”.

Several members could also raise other pressing concerns about the war in Ukraine, including the need for an escape route for Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs to world markets and the humanitarian situation in the eastern city of Severodonetsk.

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