United Nations suspends Russia from Human Rights Council over rights abuses in Ukraine

Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note sent by the Russian mission to a number of countries’ missions.

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UNITED NATIONS, The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted to adopt a US-backed resolution to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” during the Russian military offensive against Ukraine.

The resolution received 93 votes in favour to 24 against, with 58 countries abstaining, including Pakistan.

The vote came amid global outrage over the alleged killings of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, after Russian forces withdrew from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.

A two-thirds majority of voting members – abstentions do not count – was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Council.

Suspensions are rare. Libya was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The move makes Russia the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ever have its membership suspended from any United Nations body.

The resolution adopted by the 193-member General Assembly expresses “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia.

Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note sent by the Russian mission to a number of countries’ missions.

Russia was in its second year of a three-year term on the Human Rights Council, which are not legally binding, but they send important political messages, and the Council can authorize investigations.

Last month the Council opened an investigation into allegations of rights violations, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine since Russia’s attack.

Since Russia’s military offensive against Ukraine began on February 24, the General Assembly has adopted two resolutions denouncing Russia with 141 and 140 votes in favour. Moscow says it is carrying out a “special operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.

The United States announced it would seek Russia’s suspension after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing hundreds of civilians in the town of Bucha.

Russia denies attacking civilians in Ukraine. UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday that while Bucha was under Russian control “not a single civilian suffered from any kind of violence.”

Speaking before the vote, Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said a yes vote would “save the Human Rights Council and many lives around the world and in Ukraine,” but a no vote was “pulling a trigger, and means a red dot on the screen – red as the blood of the innocent lives lost.”

Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin said now was not the time for “theatrical performances” and accused Western countries and allies of trying to “destroy existing human rights architecture.”

“We reject the untruthful allegations against us based on staged events and widely circulated fakes,” Kuzmin told the General Assembly before the vote, defending Russia’s record as a Human Rights Council member.

After abstaining on the previous two General Assembly votes, Russia’s ally China opposed the resolution Thursday.

“Such a hasty move at the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will aggravate the division among member states, intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned – it is like adding fuel to the fire,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun said before the vote.

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