The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted to suspend Russia from the body’s Human Rights Council over allegations of atrocities in Ukraine.
In a vote of 93 to 24 with 58 votes, the assembly suspended Russia for “gross and systematic violations of human rights” and violations of international law committed against Ukraine.
A two-thirds majority is required for the motion to be accepted; Diets do not count.
“We see the vote as a rare and extraordinary action to suspend the rights of a state human rights council,” Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergei Kislitsia, said before the vote.
“However, Russia’s actions are beyond ambiguous – Russia is not only violating human rights, it is shaking up the very basis of international peace and security.”
Forty-seven countries are in the Human Rights Council in Geneva. They are elected by the General Assembly through secret ballot. Russia is currently serving a three-year term which was to expire on December 31, 2023.
Kyslytsya noted that 7 April is when the Rwandan genocide is celebrated, and that those massacres were in large part due to a lack of international action and a failure by the United Nations to respond to warnings from the ground.
“On this day of complaints and facing its tragedy of thousands of Ukrainians killed by Russian invaders, Ukraine stands with Rwanda and calls on Rwanda to reaffirm our pledge to never forget and never allow a repeat of the genocide, Which was a consequence of the apathy of the international community, ”said the Ukrainian envoy.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the UN Security Council in a video address for Russia’s inaction in preventing war against his country. He called on Moscow to face accountability for the crimes it has committed there.
The United States led the move to suspend Russia, and more than 60 countries joined in co-sponsoring the resolution.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Brussels: “A country that is committing gross and systematic violations of human rights should not sit on a body whose job it is to protect those rights.” “Today, a wrong was righted.”
“Unprecedented, historic vote,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told VOA after the vote. “We have suspended a permanent member of the Security Council of the United Nations Human Rights Council. We have sent a strong message of support to the Ukrainians. We have sent a strong message about human rights.”
He said the suspension is with immediate effect.
Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations of abuse and torture, saying they are either “fake news” or that the Ukrainian side has committed to making them look bad.
After the vote, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Gennady Kuzmin, stated that Moscow had made its decision to terminate its membership in the Human Rights Council and did not want to be with Western states, whom they accused of committing human rights abuses. or accused of incitement. Our.
“Russia’s sincere commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights does not make it possible for us to remain a member of an international system that has become an enabler of the will of the above-mentioned group of countries,” Kuzmin said.
“You don’t submit your resignation after you’re fired,” Ukraine’s envoy told reporters discussing Russia’s withdrawal.
This is only the second time the General Assembly has suspended a member of the Human Rights Council. The last time this happened was in March 2011, when Libya was undergoing brutal crackdown by then-dictator Moammar Gaddafi to suppress Arab Spring protests. He was ousted from power and later assassinated. After a new government was installed, Libya’s membership was restored eight months after its suspension.
authority to investigate
The Human Rights Council has commissions of inquiry, fact-finding missions and powers to investigate abuses and has done so in several countries, including Syria, Myanmar and North Korea.
Last month, the council decided to establish an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations and abuses in the context of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Three human rights experts have been appointed to collect and preserve evidence and evidence for any future legal proceedings.
Some countries either voted against suspending Russia or did not participate, saying they believed the move was premature and anticipates the results of the Commission of Inquiry.
China, which had previously not participated in assembly votes condemning Russia’s invasion and the humanitarian consequences of the war, on Thursday elected to side with Moscow and voted against the resolution.
“Such haste in the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will exacerbate divisions among member states and intensify conflicts between the parties concerned,” Ambassador Zhang Jun said. “It’s like adding fuel to the fire, which is not conducive to reducing conflicts, and even less so to advancing peace talks.”
reluctance to suspend
Even some countries that have been vocal in condemning the war were not comfortable suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council, such as Mexico, which did not participate.
“Yes, there is a commission of inquiry. We want to see the outcome of that commission of inquiry, but do we have to sit and continue to watch the massacre, over and over again, the horrors of Buka, while Russia sits on the Human Rights Council? Thomas-Greenfield told VOA.
Since its inception in 2006, the Human Rights Council has come under constant criticism due to the record of abhorrent rights of some of its members. Currently, China, Eritrea, Pakistan and Venezuela are among its members.
The council has also been criticized for focusing on Israel. In 2018, the Trump administration abandoned the body, calling it a “cesspool of political bias.” The Biden administration returned last year. Blinken said at the time that while the council works well, it highlights the countries with the worst human rights records.