The United Nations General Assembly made a big move on Thursday. They voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council due to spotlighted allegations of inhumane acts committed by Russian soldiers in the war against Ukraine.
The vote consisted of 117 nations voting and 58 abstentions. The final tally was 93 voting in favor of suspending Russia and 24 voting against it.
According to the draft of the resolution, the General Assembly may suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of a member that commits “gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
The resolution noted that the council had “grave concerns” about reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” and “violations of international humanitarian law” that have been done by the Russian Federation in the War in Ukraine.
The measure from the General Assembly had to have a result that two-thirds of the countries present if the measure was to be enforced. The final tally enabled them to suspend Russia’s membership in the Council. This should also give leverage to the United Nations to begin a review of Russian actions in Ukraine.
This vote was prompted by an address to the United Nations by the U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She made a case for Russian suspension saying, “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 it the height of hypocrisy — it is dangerous. Every day, we see more and more how little Russia respects human rights.”
Thomas Greenfield went on to argue that Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council would hurt its future credibility and would undermine the foundation of the United Nations itself. She concluded her address by just saying Russia’s involvement was “just plain wrong.”
Sergiy Kyslytsya, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, also spoke before the critical vote. He called on all United Nations members to support the resolution.
“Now the world has come to a crucial juncture. We witness that our liner is going through treacherous fog towards deadly icebergs. It might seem that we should have named it the Titanic instead of the Human Rights Council. … We need to take an action today to save the council from sinking,” Kyslytsya said.
He ended his address by equating Russia’s aggression to war crimes and crimes against humanity. He admitted that suspending Russia would be a rare and even extraordinary action, but he said that Russia’s actions have been “beyond the pale.”
The Russian ambassador to the United Nations responded to the address by saying that it would set a dangerous precedent. Gennady Kuzmin said that the United Nations was not at a place where they should display “theatrical performances” like the ones that were being shown by Ukraine. He maintained that the draft resolution they were going to vote on had “no relationship” to what was actually taking place on the ground in Ukraine.
The Russian ambassador also said that the vote to suspend Russia was an attempt by the United States to keep its dominant position and control over “human rights colonialism in international relations.” Ironically, after the vote, Russia decided it did not want to be on the Human Rights Council.
The UN director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau, called the suspension of Russia “a crystal-clear message” that Russia has no place on the council. He described the gruesome images that were seen in Bucha as shocking people around the world, and the victims and their families deserve to see those responsible held to account. He called on the UN and International Criminal Court to investigate quickly to preserve the evidence of war crimes.
Russia now joins Libya as the only two countries to be stripped of participation in the Human Rights Council.