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Russia: Waging War Against Peace and Human Rights Inside and Outside 

Russia’s human rights record will come under scrutiny on 13 November in the Universal Periodic Review. WILPF has pulled out some key concerning issues linked to different forms of state repression, arms and military spending and its recent withdrawal from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

Image credit: WILPF
WILPF International Secretariat
9 November 2023

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has taken a heavy toll and civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. The conflict in Ukraine, now in its second year, has killed countless civilians and displaced them, including due to indiscriminate Russian attacks using explosive weapons. The devastation caused by Russia’s attacks is not new.  Russia used explosive weapons in Syria, and has been a major provider of arms to Myanmar’s military junta. There has also been an increased presence of mercenaries from  the Russian Wagner Group, in the Central African Republic and Mali amongst others. It is hardly a secret that Russia is among the top three military spenders, alongside the US and China and from 2017-2021 was the world’s second-largest arms exporter. Russia’s multiple threats  to use nuclear weapons issued in the context of the war against Ukraine only add to this grim record. 

Ahead of the upcoming review of Russia’s human rights record  on 13  November,  in a United Nations (UN) process known as the Universal Periodic Review, WILPF submitted to the UN two reports, one of which is a joint submission with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

What are the key issues?

  • Mass surveillance via new technologies is used as a state instrument to suppress dissent, including anti-war views. 
  • The report also sheds light on increased use of militaristic propaganda aimed at children and youth in schools and other educational settings. For example,  issuing updated history books in high schools that justify the war against Ukraine in line with government propaganda. 
  • The report further underlines the exploitation of conscription  in regions with lower living standards, and the use of economic coercion and threats in recruitment, with ethnic minority groups being disproportionately conscripted compared to others. 

The past is linked to the present

In addition to concerns over Russia’s use of weapons in Ukraine, particularly explosive weapons, the report recalls Russia’s involvement in attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure in Syria. Through providing significant military support to the Syrian regime, Russia has facilitated  serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including war crimes. 

Russia’s nuclear threats in the war against Ukraine starkly highlight the extreme dangers posed by nuclear weapons. The enduring consequences of Russia’s past nuclear testing, with effects that persist today, also warrant scrutiny. Thus, the joint report by WILPF and ICAN not only decries Russia’s recent nuclear threats, but also recalls  its  violations of international law linked to previous nuclear testing and its actions undermining global nuclear disarmament efforts. It calls for accountability and redress  for victims of Soviet-era nuclear tests, underscoring the enduring environmental and health impacts, particularly on Indigenous Peoples’ lands in Kazakhstan and Siberia. The Russian parliament revoked its ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) on 18 October 2023 which is concerning.  The Russian government says it has no intention of carrying out a test, unless the United States does so first. However, Russia’s decision to withdraw from the CTBT, together with mounting evidence that China, Russia and the United States have all been upgrading their nuclear weapon test sites makes the resumption of full-scale nuclear tests by Russia more likely. 

The attempt to dismantle the norm against nuclear testing is in no state’s interests, let alone the interest of people or the planet. As the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) has said, “Russia weakening its commitment to the CTBT is senseless and irresponsible behaviour, and is part of a pattern of Russia using nuclear weapons to intimidate opponents of its invasion of Ukraine.” International treaties, including the CTBT and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, “are critical to making sure nuclear testing that has harmed people’s health and spread lasting radioactive contamination is not resumed

It must stop.


The Universal Periodic Review (commonly referred to as the “UPR”) is a process whereby approximately every five years,  each Member State of the United Nations undergoes a review of its human rights record. Recommendations to the State under Review are made by other States during a session of the Working Group of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The UPR Working Group will review Russia on 13 November 2023. The two above-mentioned WILPF reports, submitted in April 2023, aim to inform States that will make recommendations to Russia during the Working Group’s session in November.

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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