NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United Nations General Assembly suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations of human rights” in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce its withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council.
The US-led campaign received 93 votes in favour, 24 countries voted against and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members of the 193-member New York General Assembly – abstentions do not count – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
Speaking after the vote, Russian Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations Gennady Kuzmin described the move as “an illegitimate and politically motivated move” and then announced that Russia had decided to withdraw from the Human Rights Council entirely.
“You are not resigning after being expelled,” Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Sergei Kislitsya, told reporters.
Russia was in its second year of a three-year period. Under Thursday’s decision, the General Assembly could have later agreed to end the suspension. But that cannot happen now that Russia has withdrawn from the council, just as the United States did in 2018 over what it described as chronic anti-Israel bias and a lack of reform.
The United States was re-elected last year to the Council. Rare comment. Libya was suspended in 2011 due to violence against protesters by forces loyal to then leader Muammar Gaddafi.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas Greenfield said the UN “has sent a clear message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored”.
“We have taken care not to allow a persistent and serious human rights violator to assume a leadership position in the field of human rights at the United Nations,” she said in remarks to be submitted to the General Assembly later on Thursday.
The Human Rights Council may not take legally binding decisions. However, its decisions send important political messages, and they can authorize investigations. Last month, the council opened an investigation into allegations of rights abuses, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine.
Thursday’s resolution was the third to be adopted by the 193-member General Assembly since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on February 24. The two previous General Assembly resolutions condemning Russia were adopted by 141 votes and 140 votes.
Russia’s partner China opposed the resolution on Thursday after abstaining in two previous votes in the General Assembly.
China’s ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, previously said: “Such a hasty move in the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose one side, will exacerbate the division among member states and intensify confrontation between the parties concerned – it is like pouring oil on fire.” vote.
Thursday’s General Assembly text expresses “grave concern about the human rights crisis and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine”, in particular about reports of human rights violations by Russia.
Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” aimed at destroying Ukraine’s military infrastructure and denies attacking civilians. Ukraine and its allies say Moscow invaded without provocation.
Russia has warned countries that a yes or abstaining vote would be considered an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral relations, according to a memo seen by Reuters.