The UN expels Russia from its Human Rights Council for the invasion of Ukraine | International


This time abstentions did not count. And it took two-thirds of yeses at the United Nations General Assembly to make the symbolically charged decision to suspend Russia’s participation in the UN Human Rights Council for “serious and systematic violations and abuses” committed during the invasion of Ukraine. Of the 193 Member States, 176 have voted: a total of 93 have spoken in favor, in an extraordinary session held this Thursday in New York; 24, against. Discounting the 58 abstentions, the resolution has gone ahead with 79% of the 117 valid votes.

The proposal, which represents a diplomatic setback for Russia, was presented last Monday by the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, after learning of the atrocities allegedly committed by the Russian army in Bucha. In that northern suburb of the capital, kyiv, which was under the control of the invading forces for just over a month, the withdrawal of troops last weekend left behind dozens of civilian bodies lying in the streets and half-buried in mass graves, many with signs of torture. These acts were described by the president of the United States, Joe Biden, as “war crimes” and by his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodímir Zelensky, after a visit to the area, as evidence of a “genocide”. Moscow maintains that everything is a setup, despite the evidence to the contrary, the accounts of witnesses and journalists on the ground and satellite images.

After the vote, Gennady Kuzmin, a member of the Russian delegation to the UN, called the expulsion “illegitimate” and announced that Russia was leaving the Human Rights Council on its own and completely. “You don’t hand in your resignation after they kick you out,” responded the Ukrainian ambassador to the UN. Russia was serving the second year of the three that the regulations establish for the countries that serve on a rotating basis in the Council. Thursday’s General Assembly vote left open the possibility that Russia’s suspension from the Council could later be lifted, but Russia’s determination already makes that impossible. The United States also left this Council in 2018 due to what it described as a chronic bias against Israel and the lack of reforms in the body.

Regarding the vote in the Assembly, there is only one precedent for the motion adopted this Thursday: the suspension of Libya in 2011 due to evidence of the use of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then President Muammar Gaddafi. The body, founded in 2006 and based in Geneva, is made up of 47 States, “responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world.” It is not qualified to make legally binding decisions, but it can initiate investigations. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The text voted on Thursday reflects a “serious concern about the current humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ukraine, in particular about reports of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international law by Russia.”

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Moscow – which has described the move as “an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominance” and to “use human rights colonialism in international relations” – had asked an unspecified number of countries to vote against the move. suspension. He warned them, according to a document obtained by the AP agency, that a yes or gestures of abstaining or not voting (both useless to Russia’s interests) would be interpreted by the Kremlin as a deterioration in bilateral relations.

Before the vote, the Ukrainian ambassador, Sergei Kislitsia, delivered an impassioned speech in which he once again recalled the precedent of the Holocaust and said that supporting the suspension “is a duty, not an option”. Afterwards, the representatives of Kazakhstan, Venezuela, North Korea, China, Iran, Syria and Cuba took the floor to express their opposition to the resolution, as well as their intention to vote against it. They cited arguments such as the lack of an independent investigation into military operations against civilians, the inaction of the UN in previous cases in which the United States was involved, or the counterproductive effects of such a decision on the peace negotiations.

The Chinese Zhang Jun has described the measure as “hasty”. “It forces the countries to take sides, it will aggravate the division between the Member States and intensify the confrontation; it is like adding fuel to the fire”, he assured. Egypt, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa warned, for their part, that they would abstain.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the UN Assembly has adopted two resolutions condemning Russia’s actions with 141 and 140 votes in favor, respectively. Moscow continues to refuse to call the invasion a “war” and speaks of a “special operation” to demilitarize the neighboring country.

After learning of Russia’s suspension, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmitro Kuleba, congratulated himself on Twitter: “There is no place for war criminals in the UN agencies dedicated to the defense of human rights. Grateful to all member states that have supported this important resolution and have chosen to stand on the right side of history.”

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