On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. The vote was held during a session in New York, and comes in response to growing condemnation of alleged war crimes by Russian forces in Ukraine.
“Russia’s rights of membership in the UN Human Rights Council has just been suspended,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, responded. “War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history.”
Of the 175 votes cast, 93 were in favor, while 24 were against. There were 58 abstentions. Two-thirds of the body (excluding abstentions) were required to vote in favor in order for the suspension to be successful.
Among those countries that voted against Russia’s suspension was Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Congo, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Kazakhstan, Syria, Vietnam, and Zimbabwe, as well as Russia. Notable abstentions included India, Mexico, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
Suspensions from the United Nations Human Rights Council are rare, with the only other example of a sitting member being suspended being Libya in 2011, following violence against protesters by Gaddafi’s forces.
The adopted resolution expresses “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.”
On Monday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, first announced that the United States will seek Russia’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, following its brutal invasion of Ukraine.
“I am returning to New York to do two things. One: I will take this to the Security Council tomorrow morning and address Russia’s actions directly,” Thomas-Greenfield said, according to a spokesperson. “Two: In close coordination with Ukraine, European countries and other partners at the UN, we are going to seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.”
“Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. It hurts the credibility of the Council and the UN writ large. And it is wrong, which is why we believe it is time the UN General Assembly vote to suspend them,” Thomas-Greenfield added.
“Pushing Russia off of the Human Rights Council is the right move. It should be easy for every single country to support this,” former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted in response. “As long as Russia sits on the council with China and Venezuela, it remains a joke and a disgrace to human rights.”