UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the world organisation’s leading human rights body over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, which the United States and Ukraine have called tantamount to war crimes.
It was a rare, if not unprecedented rebuke against one of the five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council.
The vote on the US initiated resolution was 93-24 with 58 abstentions, significantly lower than the vote on two resolutions the assembly adopted last month demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both of those resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.
Russia’s deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin announced after the vote that Russia withdrew from the Human Rights Council earlier Thursday, before the assembly took action, apparently in expectation of the result. He accused the council of being monopolised by a group of countries with “short-term political and economic interests” that he accused of “blatant and massive violations of human rights.”
Along with Russia, other four permanent members of the UN Security Council — Britain, China, France, and the United States, which rejoined this year — currently have seats on the Human Rights Council. Other members with widely questioned rights records along with China include Eritrea, Venezuela, Sudan and Libya.Russia is the second country to have its membership rights stripped at the rights council which was established in 2006. In 2011, Libya was suspended by the assembly when upheaval in the North African country brought down longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
While almost half the UN’s 193 member nations supported the resolution, more than half either voted against it, abstained or didn’t vote.
Explaining their decision not to support the resolution, some countries called it premature, noting that there are ongoing investigations into whether war crimes have occurred, or said it would undermine the credibility of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations. Others said the resolution reflected American and European geopolitical agendas and what opponents called Western hypocrisy and selective outrage about human rights.