The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) suspended Russia from its Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine, in a development against Moscow supported by Jerusalem.
By Erin Viner
The United States-led push garnered 93 votes in favor, while 24 countries opposed and 58 others abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member UNGA was required for the measure to pass, while abstentions are not counted.
A statement obtained by TV7 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) affirmed that Israel supported the resolution to suspend Russia’s membership on the UNHRC “in the wake of the war in Ukraine, Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine, and the killing of innocent civilians.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid went on to stress that voting in favor of the move does not change Jerusalem’s overall position on the controversial 47-member Geneva-based Council, which has been widely condemned for its longtime, deep-rooted discrimination against the Jewish State.
“Today’s vote doesn’t change our position regarding the UN Human Rights Council, which is an extremist, morally-flawed, biased, and in its very essence, an anti-Israel body that has been exploited as a political tool since its establishment by the world’s main human rights violators in order to, among other things, attack Israel,” proclaimed Jerusalem’s top diplomat.
While the UNHRC cannot make legally binding decisions, its resolutions are formulated to send political messages and it is able to authorize investigations. It opened an inquiry in March to probe allegations of rights violations in Ukraine – including possible war crimes.
This was the third UNGA condemnatory resolution against Russian since it invaded neighboring Ukraine on 24 February, with both having previously passed by favorable majorities of 141 and 140. The text of the latest draft expressed “grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine,” particularly at reports of rights abuses by Russia.
Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin immediately denounced the move as “illegitimate and politically motivated,” and announced the Kremlin’s decision to resign from the UNHRC altogether.
Ukraine’s UN Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya responded by later telling the press, “”You do not submit your resignation after you are fired.”
Such suspensions are rare, and it had been possible for UNGA to eventually lift it until Russia withdrew from the UNHRC. Libya was suspended in 2011 due to violence against protesters by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.
The administration of former US President Donald Trump relinquished membership in 2018 over chronic bias against Israel and a lack of reform; but re-joined last year at the directive of current President Joe Biden while vowing to push for the elimination of “disproportionate focus” on ally Israel.
At the time of the US withdrawal, then-Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said “You know something is seriously wrong when the Council passes more than 70 resolutions against Israel – which has a strong human rights record, and just 7 resolutions against Iran” – whose history is what she described as “abysmal.” She also warned that if the UNHRC refused to shift policy, it would risk becoming a “showcase for dictatorships” and “a cover for some of the worst atrocities” being perpetrated by offenders worldwide.
Current US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that Russia’s suspension “sent a clear message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored,” while further asserting, “We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the UN.”
The Kremlin had warned countries that “yes votes” or abstentions would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note seen by Reuters.
Even though Moscow’s ally Beijing had abstained from the first two votes, it voted against yesterday’s resolution.
“Such a hasty move at the General Assembly, which forces countries to choose sides, will aggravate the division among member states and intensify the confrontation between the parties concerned – it is like adding fuel to the fire,” declared China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun ahead of the vote.
Ukraine and allies insist that Russia invaded without provocation and is guilty of war crimes. Moscow maintains it is carrying out a “special military operation” aimed at “de-Nazifying” its neighbor, and denies any civilians have been attacked.