The UN General Assembly vote on Thursday approved a US-led effort to suspend Russia from the 47-member Human Rights Council over the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
The suspension from the council, based in Geneva, is a major diplomatic blow to Russia, one of the founding members of the United Nations. The resolution calling for a moratorium on Russia required a two-thirds majority, abstention was not counted as a vote, and was seen as a barometer of the world’s hatred for Ukraine’s apparent atrocities.
The proposal received 93 votes in favor and 24 against, with 58 abstentions. China said before the vote that it would not support the move and that India, Brazil, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates – all members of the UN Security Council – abstained. They argued that the move could worsen the war and that further investigations into the atrocities reported before the UN action was needed were needed.
They also said that the United Nations should focus on ending the conflict through diplomatic talks. “When the lives of innocent people are at stake, diplomacy must be won as the only viable option,” said Indian Ambassador TS Tirumurthy.
Ukraine’s ambassador, Sergei Kislyas, said before the vote that suspending Russia was “not an option, but a duty” to save lives and prevent the establishment of the Human Rights Council.
Russia has called the move “an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominance and complete control” and “use of human rights in international relations.”
The move follows reports of indiscriminate Russian bombings in Ukraine and reports of killings and torture of civilians on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, pointing to Russia’s crime. Ukraine, the United States and other countries have said the actions amounted to war crimes.
In March, only four countries voted with Russia in two General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia for its aggression in Ukraine and demanding the withdrawal of Russian troops.
The General Assembly, which elects members of the Human Rights Council, has suspended only one other country: Libya, in March 2011. But the move comes after President Moammar al-Gaddafi’s government launched a crackdown on anti-government protesters. Among the Libyan diplomats in New York and Geneva who distanced themselves from the activities of their government.
Russia’s suspension order, in contrast, denies any violation of its rights in Ukraine. The Kremlin has warned that voting in favor of the resolution, or even abstaining from it, would be considered “unfriendly” and would have consequences for its relations with those countries.
Russia-Ukraine War: Key Developments
Russia’s suspension is the first time that one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council has lost its membership in a UN body, rights groups say.
Its suspension from the Human Rights Council has both practical and symbolic significance.
Russia has been active in the council’s activities, challenging critical decisions by any country, especially allies such as Syria and Belarus, and proposing amendments aimed at curtailing broader rights initiatives.
Following Thursday’s General Assembly vote, it will remain a member of the Council except to discuss proposals, table amendments, or the situation in which it is directly involved, unless it is unable to address the Council.
The suspension will remain in effect until the General Assembly decides to lift it or until the end of 2023, when Russia’s term as a member expires.
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