UN assembly suspends Russia from top human rights body

Russia At War

Screens display the results of a vote on a resolution regarding the war in Ukraine at United Nations headquarters, Thursday, March 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

NEW YORK CITY (NewsNation) — The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council over allegations of atrocities committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

The U.S.-led effort, which required a two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly to suspend Russia, received 93 votes in favor. A total of 24 countries voted no and 58 abstained.

Although the resolution passed, it received significantly fewer votes than two prior resolutions, which the assembly adopted overwhelmingly last month.

On March 2, the assembly voted 141-5 to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate Russian cease-fire and called on Putin’s army to withdraw all of its forces. There were also 35 nations that abstained from voting.

Just over four weeks later, the General Assembly voted 140-5 with 38 abstentions, blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and called again for an immediate cease-fire and protection for civilians.

Thursday’s suspension is mostly symbolic but sends a strong message that two-thirds of the international community does not believe Russia upholds the values of the United Nations’ leading human rights body.

Moscow is now barred from speaking and voting at council meetings but its diplomats can still attend debates, according to Reuters.

nato allies stand together

All 30 members of NATO voted to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield launched the campaign earlier this week after gruesome videos and photos emerged that appeared to show civilian corpses on the streets of Bucha, Ukraine shortly after Russian troops retreated.

The images have sparked global outcry and additional sanctions from Western allies.

“Given the growing mountain of evidence, Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose — whose very purpose — is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is this the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous,” Thomas-Greenfield said earlier this week.

Russia is only the second member of the 47-member council to have its membership rights suspended. In 2011, Libya was suspended because of violence against protesters by forces allied with then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“Russia’s actions are beyond the pale,” said Ukraine’s U.N Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya. “Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the underpinnings of international peace and security.”

others more hesitant

In the two previous votes condemning the Russian invasion, only close Putin allies voted against the resolutions, including Belarus, North Korea and Syria. Thursday’s vote saw more hesitance from the international community, mostly in the form of abstentions.

Before the vote, Russia’s deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin urged members to vote “no” and accused the United States of attempting to “maintain its dominant position” and said the war crime allegations against it were fake and based on “staged events.”

Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador responded by saying, ““We have heard, many times, the same perverted logic of the aggressor trying to present itself as the victim.”

China, which previously abstained from both votes, voted against the resolution to suspend Russia from the U.N. 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.”

Multiple representatives raised concerns that suspending Russia would further divide the General Assembly at a time when cooperation and diplomacy is needed.

Mexico, which previously voted in favor of the resolutions calling for a cease-fire and blaming Russia for the war, abstained Thursday.

“Even in the midst of the war, all channels should be maintained for dialogue with the Russian Federation,” said Mexican Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente.

Others felt the suspension would be premature and could set a dangerous precedent, given that investigations into Russian war crimes are still ongoing.

“Brazil has decided to abstain in today’s vote as it believes the commission of inquiry should be allowed to complete its independent investigation so that responsibilities can be ascertained,” said Brazil’s Ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho.

Brazil and Egypt abstained even after voting in favor of the previous resolutions.

India and South Africa abstained again after abstaining in the previous two votes.

“When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option,” Indian Ambassador T. S. Tirumurti said, insisting that his country is not taking sides.

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