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Human Rights

UN votes to remove Russia from human rights council

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter to thank the nations who voted in favor of expelling Russia, noting that “war criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights"

April 7, 2022 1:27pm

Updated: April 7, 2022 2:29pm

In a stunning show of global solidarity, the United Nations voted Thursday to suspend Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council over allegations of war crimes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Although the measure passed with 93 votes in favor and 24 against with 58 abstentions, it received significantly less support than the previous two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine.

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In terms of Latin America, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua joined countries like Belarus, North Korea, Iran and Syria in voting with Moscow against the expulsion.

The Venezuelan regime would have likely joined the “no” camp, but Caracas lost voting rights in the United Nations last year after failing to pay organizational dues.

China abstained from voting in the two previous anti-Rusisan resolutions, but voted against suspending Moscow from the Human Rights council.

“Such a hasty move at the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will aggravate the division among member states and intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned,” said Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun. “It is like adding fuel to the fire.”

India, who has thus far resisted Western pressure to cut ties with Russia, abstained from voting.  

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield introduced the proposal earlier this week after Russian troops were accused of torturing and killing civilians in the town of Bucha as they withdrew from the capital, Kyiv – a move which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described as a “genocide.”

“We believe that the members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday. “We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the UN Human Rights Council.”

Thomas-Greenfield added on Tuesday that allowing Russia to remain on the council hurts its credibility, “undermines the entire UN, and is just plain wrong.”  

UN Human Rights Council members are expected to uphold high human rights standards and are elected to serve for three years without the possibility of immediate reelection after two consecutive terms. Previously, Libya was the only country to have been expelled from the 47-member bloc after former dictator Muammar Gaddafi ordered a violent crackdown against protestors by his security forces.

Before the vote, Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya rallied international support, calling on members to take the “obvious and self-explanatory” move to suspend Russia from the council.

“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,” Kyslytsya told his colleagues at the United Nations.

Kyslytsya further warned that a “no” vote effectively “means pulling a trigger” and siding with the Kremlin amid Vladimir Putin’s bloody “special military operation.”

Similarly, Zelensky on Tuesday called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russian political and military leaders for war crimes.

“The Russian military and those who gave them orders must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in Ukraine,” he said while addressing the UN Security Council.

Although the Kremlin promised to “drastically reduce” military operations in Ukraine following peace talks in Turkey last month, horrific images emerged of dead civilians lying scattered across the streets of Bucha, many with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the back of the head.  

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said alliance members are working with the UN’s International Criminal Court to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

“Targeting and murdering civilians is a war crime. All the facts must be established and all those responsible for these atrocities must be brought to justice,” Stoltenberg said Tuesay.

After the vote, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba took to Twitter to thank the nations who voted in favor of expelling Russia, noting that “war criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights.”

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