Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council


The UN General Assembly on Thursday suspended Russia from its seat on the UN Human Rights Council over the invasion of Ukraine, in a vote that garnered 93 votes in favor and reflects an erosion of international unity vis-à-vis Moscow. Of the 193 member countries of the General Assembly, 24 voted against this suspension – the second in the history of the UN after the ousting of Libya in 2011 -, initiated by the United States. And 58 countries abstained, but the abstentions, a choice denounced by kyiv, were not taken into account in the two-thirds majority required among the only votes for and against.

The Kremlin will continue to “defend its interests”

The Kremlin on Thursday regretted Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council, warning that Moscow intended to “continue to defend its interests by all legal means”. “We are sorry about this and we will continue to defend our interests by all legal means and to explain ourselves,” Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told British channel Sky News.

China has denounced a “hasty approach”

Among the countries that voted against is China, which denounced a “hasty approach”, the putting “oil on the fire” as well as a “dangerous precedent”. Iran, Kazakhstan and Cuba also voted against. Unsurprisingly, Russia, Belarus and Syria opposed the proposed resolution on ballot. Despite pressure in recent days from Moscow for countries to vote against, several African states, including South Africa and Senegal, have chosen to abstain, judging that the resolution suspending Moscow “prejudges the results of the survey” created in early March by the Human Rights Council.

Brazil, like Mexico and India, all three currently non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, has adopted the same abstentionist position. Chile, on the other hand, voted in favour. According to Washington, the suspension of Russia from the Human Rights Council which sits in Geneva is much more than symbolic and increases the “isolation” of Moscow on the international scene since the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Russia intermittent member since 2006

Russia is accused of war crimes and abuses against civilians in the Ukrainian areas it has occupied, such as Boutcha, which hastened Washington’s move to have it suspended from the Human Rights Council. Moscow has been an intermittent member of the Council since 2006 because only two terms in a row are allowed for its members. Its current term expires in 2023. Ukraine is among the current members of the Council.

The resolution adopted Thursday by the General Assembly recalls that the latter “may suspend the rights of membership of the Human Rights Council of a member of the Council who commits flagrant and systematic violations of human rights”. It expresses the “deep concern” of the General Assembly “at the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ukraine, in particular in the face of reports of violations and abuses of human rights” , sometimes “systematic”, and “violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation”.

Ukraine “grateful”

Ukraine said on Thursday it was “grateful” for the decision to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, saying “war criminals” should not be represented there. “War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba tweeted.

The mission of the Council is to promote human rights

The Human Rights Council is the main United Nations forum responsible for promoting this area. Created in 2006, it is made up of 47 member states, elected by the United Nations General Assembly. In addition to promoting human rights, its mission is to regularly review their situation in UN member countries. The Council can also take up any question or situation related to human rights that requires it, including during exceptional meetings, which can be convened urgently. This was particularly the case recently for the situation in Ukraine, despite opposition from Moscow, or in Ethiopia.

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the UN General Assembly has spoken on this war three times, including Thursday’s vote. On March 2, during a first historic vote, 141 countries had condemned the invasion launched by Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, 5 countries voting against (in addition to Russia, Belarus, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea), 35 abstaining. On March 24, the General Assembly called for unhindered humanitarian access and the protection of civilians in Ukraine. During the ballot, 140 countries voted for, five against (the same five as on March 2) and 38 countries abstained.


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