UN Assembly suspends Russia from human rights body; Moscow then quits

by mcardinal

Chris Lange, FISM News


The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the world organization’s leading human rights body. The decision came days after the discovery of mass executions and atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, near the capital city of Kyiv, following the withdrawal of Russian troops from the region. 

Ninety-three countries of the 193-member assembly voted in favor of the resolution, with 24 voting against it and 58 countries abstaining. Its passage required a two-thirds majority.

The vote represents an extraordinary rebuke of one of the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, marking only the second time a country’s membership privileges have been stripped at the rights council. The assembly also voted to suspend Libya in 2011 over mass human rights violations.

President Biden said the vote is reflective of the fact that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war “has made Russia an international pariah.” Biden also vowed to continue working with other nations to collect evidence to hold Russia accountable for what he has described as “war crimes” against Ukrainians.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the vote “a historic moment,” telling the assembly: “We have collectively sent a strong message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.” 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that it must either revoke Russia’s membership or “dissolve” in light of irrefutable evidence that Moscow is committing atrocities against Ukrainian civilians. Russia is one of five permanent members of the UNSC, joined by the U.S., U.K., France, and China.  

Speaking after the vote, Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin decried the decision as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step” and declared that Russia had decided to quit the Human Rights Council altogether. The comment was derided by Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya, who told reporters, “You do not submit your resignation after you are fired.”  

Ahead of the vote, Kyslytsya told assembly members that a resolution to oust Russia, whose actions he described as “beyond the pale,” was necessary to prevent the Human Rights Council from “sinking.”

“Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the underpinnings of international peace and security,” he said.

In a document circulated by the Kremlin and obtained by The Associated Press, Russia said that the actions of the U.S. and other opponents are meant to preserve their control over the world and perpetuate “the politics of neo-colonialism of human rights” in international relations.

Kyslytsya responded to the Kremlin’s complaints, saying, “We have heard, many times, the same perverted logic of the aggressor trying to present itself as the victim.”

The General Assembly on March 2 passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Kremlin forces from Ukraine. Then, on March 24, the assembly voted to condemn Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and called for civilian protections. The resolutions were largely symbolic – they are not legally binding – but reflective of global condemnation of Russia’s actions.

Thursday’s vote and Russia’s withdrawal, however, directly impacts Moscow’s influence and leaves China without a key ally. 

China abstained in both assembly votes last month but voted against suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council.