UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from Human Rights Council

UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council
UN Photo/Manuel Elías. Pictured at the end of the row on the right, is Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia, Gennady Kuzmin.

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. 

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.  

Fifty-eight abstained from the process. 

Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam, were among those who voted against. 

Those abstaining, included India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. 

The meeting marked the resumption of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine and followed reports of violations committed by Russian forces. 

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.

Gennady Kuzmin, Deputy Russian ambassador, in remarks before the vote, called for countries to “vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture.”

Parallels with Rwanda

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.

“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,” said Kyslytsya.

“Today, in the case of Ukraine, it is not even a year, because the tragedy is unfolding right now before our eyes.”

Russia quits Council

Speaking after the adoption of the resolution, Deputy Permanent Representative 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.

“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.”