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UPDATED: UN suspends Russia from Human Rights Council

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The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has voted to suspend Russia from the organisation’s leading human rights body amid allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians while retreating from a region around Ukraine’s capital.

 

With this, Moscow becomes the first permanent member of the UN Security Council to ever have its membership revoked, albeit temporarily, from any United Nations body.

 

The United States-initiated resolution, on Thursday, achieved the two-thirds majority of UNGA voting members required to pass, with 93 votes cast in favour and 24 against. A total of 58 countries abstained, but their votes did not count towards the final tally.

 

The brief resolution expressed “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particularly at the reports of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights.”

 

“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,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter.

 

Before the vote, the country’s UN ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, had urged UNGA members to “press the ‘yes’ button and to save the Human Rights Council and many lives around the world and in Ukraine.”

 

“On the other hand, pressing ‘no’ means pulling a trigger and means a red dot on the screen – red as the blood of the innocent lives lost,” Mr Kyslytsya was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying during a special session on Ukraine.

 

Russia had called on an unspecified number of countries to vote “no”, saying an abstention or not voting would be considered an unfriendly act and would affect bilateral relations.

 

In its “non-paper” obtained by The Associated Press news agency, Russia said the attempt to expel it from the Human Rights Council is a political act by countries that want to preserve their dominant position and control over the world.

 

Those nations want to continue “the politics of neo-colonialism of human rights” in international relations, it said, adding that Russia’s priority is to promote and defend human rights, including multilaterally in the Human Rights Council.

 

That was echoed by Gennady Kuzmin, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN, who told the UNGA session before Thursday’s vote that the resolution “has nothing to do with the human rights situation on the ground.”

 

“What we see is an attempt by the U.S. to maintain its dominant position and total control, to continue its attempt at human rights colonialism,” Mr Kuzmin said.

 

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, made the call for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council earlier this week during a visit to Romania, following videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha strewn with corpses of what appeared to be civilians.

 

“We believe that the members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday.

 

“We cannot let a member state that is subverting every principle we hold dear to continue to sit on the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.

 

 

The Kremlin has denied allegations that Russian forces were responsible for killing civilians in Bucha.

 

“This information must be seriously questioned,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “From what we have seen, our experts have identified signs of video falsification and other fakes.”

 

Russia also accused the U.S. of exploiting Ukraine’s crisis for its own benefits.

 

“Washington exploits the Ukrainian crisis for its own benefit in an attempt either to exclude or suspend Russia from international organisations,” Russia’s ambassador in Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, said, in comments relayed by a Russian diplomatic mission spokesman.

 

Mr Gatil called the U.S. action “unfounded and purely emotional bravado that looks good on camera – just how the US likes it.”

Culled from Premium Times

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