The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution to formally suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. This resolution, introduced by the United States delegation, cited “gross, systemic violations and abuses of human rights” by Russian armed forces in Ukraine and passed with 93 nations voting in favor and 24 against.
Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam were among those who voted against.
Those abstaining included India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
Russia, two years into its three-year term on the Council, responded by announcing it was quitting the body. Speaking for Russia, Deputy Permanent Representative Gennady Kuzmin announced Russia’s decision and lambasted the Council. Speaking through an interpreter, Kuzmin said the following:
“These states for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights, or abetted those violations… In spite of their membership as members of the Council, they are not ready to sacrifice their short-term political and economic interests in favor of true cooperation and stabilizing the human rights situation in certain countries.”
Interestingly, Kuzmin’s criticisms and Russia’s decision to leave the Council draw certain parallels to the United States’ actions in 2018. While Russia is the second country to be suspended from the Council – Libya was removed in 2011 due to violence against protestors by pro-Gaddafi forces – Russia’s decision to voluntarily leave also has a precedent.
In 2018, the US withdrew from the “hypocritic and self-serving” Council halfway through its three-year term. Then US Ambassador Nikki Haley cited widespread hostility against Israel and a lack of reform among the Council membership as reasons for the US withdrawal, stating “Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” referencing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo.
Speaking on Russia’s decision to withdraw following the vote, Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya stated “You do not submit your resignation after you are fired.”
Kyslytsya strongly urged other countries to support the resolution, citing events that had occurred this past weekend in the city of Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, where evidence emerged that hundreds of civilians had been killed and left in the streets following Russia’s withdrawal from the region. Prior to the vote, Kyslytsya stated the following:
“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.”
Previously, China had abstained from voting on resolutions against Russia. Its decision to vote in opposition could signal clearer support for Russia in the near future. Russia’s war against Ukraine will continue. The decision of states to either abstain or vote in support of Russia’s expulsion from the Human Rights Council will likely worsen respective bilateral ties.