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With 93 ‘yes’ including Italy, UNGA suspends Russia from Human Rights Council

NEW YORK, APRIL 7 – The UN General Assembly adopted today an historic resolution calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against. Fifty-eight abstained from the process. Italy voted in favour, co-sponsored the resolution and was among its ‘pen holders’.

The text expresses grave concern for the humanitarian situation in Ukraine attacked by Moscow’s troops. It is the third resolution in a month in which the international community has come out against Russia’s actions in the war against Kyiv. The Geneva based Human Rights Council consists of 47 members. Russia joined the body in January 2021 as one of 15 countries elected by the General Assembly to serve three-year terms. Under the 2006 resolution that established the Council, the General Assembly can suspend a country from membership if it commits “gross and systematic violations of human rights”.

The meeting marked the resumption of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine and followed reports of violations committed by Russian forces. This past weekend, disturbing photos emerged from the city of Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv, where hundreds of civilian bodies were found in the streets and in mass graves following Russia’s withdrawal from the area. Visiting the area today, the Special Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths described what he saw as “horrifying”, including a mass grave with bodies wrapped in plastic, dozens of apartment blocks and houses destroyed, and burned-out cars in the street, the Un Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said during the daily briefing.

The vote took place on the anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the Ukrainian ambassador drew parallels with this dark page in recent history. “The genocide in Rwanda was largely due to the indifference of the world’s community, when the UN did not respond to warnings in the UN Security Council and in the General Assembly, a year before the tragedy that we commemorate exactly on this day,” said Sergiy Kyslytsya, urging countries to support the resolution: “Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army, serve as an example of how dramatically far the Russian Federation has gone from its initial declarations in the human rights domain. That is why this case is unique and today’s response is obvious and self-explanatory,” he said.

China voted against the resolution, asking the General Assembly to not politicize human rights. The Italian Permanent Representative, Maurizio Massari, who voted on Italy’s behalf, it was “a YES to accountability, YES to upholding the integrity of the Human Rights Council, YES to the credibility of the UN human rights system and YES to preventing other human rights violations”.

Gennady Kuzmin, Deputy Russian Ambassador, called for countries to “vote against the attempt by western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture”. Ukraine expressed gratitude for the outcome of the vote: “War criminals have no place in UN bodies that have the task of protecting human rights,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmytro Kuleba. The suspension applies to Russia’s three-year term on the council, which expires in December 2023. There’s only one such precedent in U.N. history: in 2011, Libya was suspended over violent repression of protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

For the European Union, “members of the Human Rights Council are committed to the highest standards in the promotion and protection of these rights. Russia has violated these criteria with its actions in Ukraine,” said EU delegation head Olef Skoog in a statement on behalf of the 27 members of the Union, but also the candidate countries of North Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania, of Bosnia as a potential candidate, EFTA countries Iceland and Norway, members of the European Economic Area and Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino.

The list of abstainers is long and includes India, Brazil and many oil-rich Arab states: Angola, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Egypt, El Salvador, Eswatini, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Vincent-Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Singapore, South Africa, Sod Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Vanuatu, and Yemen.

In addition to Russia and China, Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Mali, Nicaragua, Syria, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe voted against the resolution. (@OnuItalia)

Il giornale Italiano delle Nazioni Unite. Ha due redazioni, una a New York, l’altra a Roma.

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