The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday with two-thirds of member countries calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. Significantly, the vote took place on the anniversary of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
The UN General Assembly on Thursday adopted a resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, citing reports of violations committed by Russian troops in Ukraine.
The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting, minus abstentions, in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against. 58 abstained from the process.
While Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Vietnam voted against the resolution, the abstainers included other members of the BRICS economic partnership – India, Brazil and South Africa – besides 55 others.
The meeting marked the resumption of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine and followed reports of violations committed by Russian forces.
Rawanda to Bucha
This past weekend, disturbing photos emerged from the city of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv, where hundreds of civilian bodies were found in the streets and in mass graves following Russia’s withdrawal from the area.
Prior to the vote, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya urged countries to support the resolution.
“Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army, serve as an example of how dramatically far the Russian Federation has gone from its initial declarations in the human rights domain. That is why this case is unique and today’s response is obvious and self-explanatory,” he said.
This is not the first time that a Member State has had its membership of the Human Rights Council suspended. Libya lost its seat in 2011, following repression of protests by ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later overthrown.
The vote took place on the anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the Ukrainian ambassador drew parallels with this dark page in recent history.
Kyslytsya drew parallels with Rawanda. “The genocide in Rwanda was largely due to the indifference of the world’s community, when the UN did not respond to warnings in the UN Security Council and in the General Assembly, a year before the tragedy that we commemorate exactly on this day,” he said.
Russia quits Council
Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, Deputy Permanent Representative Gennady Kuzmin, suddenly stated that Russia had already decided that day, to leave the Council before the end of its term.
He claimed the Council was monopolized by a group of States who use it for their short-term aims.
Kuzmin, had earlier called for countries to “vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture.”
“These States for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights, or abetted those violations,” he said, speaking through an interpreter.
“In spite of their membership as members of the Council, they are not ready to sacrifice their short-term political and economic interests in favour of true cooperation and stabilizing the human rights situation in certain countries,” he said.
China called the move a ‘dangerous precedent’. Ambassador ZHANG Jun feared any hasty move in the General Assembly would be like “adding fuel to the fire”, as it would aggravate divisions, intensify the conflict, and jeopardize peace efforts.
“Dealing with the membership of the Human Rights Council in such a way will set new dangerous precedent, further intensify confrontation in the field of human rights, bringing a greater impact on the UN governance system, and produce serious consequences,” he said.
But the European Union commended the decision as a ‘rare’ one and the US described it as a step in the right direction.
“The rare decision this Assembly has taken today sends a strong signal of accountability and hopefully will help preventing and discouraging more violations of human rights,” said Ambassador Olaf Skoog, head of the EU delegation.
Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the adoption of the resolution as “an important and historic moment”.