US politicians call for Russia’s removal from top UN rights body

Ukraine has queried Moscow's right to hold permanent seat on powerful Security Council

People sit inside a subway station used as a bomb shelter in Kharkiv, north-east Ukraine. The letter from members of the US Congress marks the latest effort to isolate Russia at the UN. EPA
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A dozen prominent US senators are pushing for Russia's removal from the UN’s top human rights body, saying Moscow’s “indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks” in Ukraine make it unworthy of a seat.

A letter from eight Democrats and four Republicans called on President Joe Biden's administration to work towards Russia's removal from the UN Human Rights Council, a 47-nation body in Geneva.

It marks the latest effort to isolate Russia at the UN, where Moscow has been censured, subject to investigation and judicial orders, and has even faced questions about maintaining its permanent seat on the Security Council.

“Swift action must be taken to show the world the US and our allies will not stand for indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks on civilians and democracies,” the senators wrote in the letter, which was sent on Monday.

“The time has come for Russia to no longer have a seat on the [Human Rights] Council.”

The senators urged Washington’s UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield to draft a General Assembly resolution calling for Russia’s removal from the council, which they say would succeed with a wide majority in the 193-nation body.

“States engaging in a pattern of gross and systemic abuses can be removed by a two-thirds vote,” says the letter, which was signed by Jim Risch, Bob Menendez, Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, Tim Kaine, Cory Booker and other senators.

The General Assembly has twice voted overwhelmingly to censure Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Moscow has said it does not attack civilians in an operation that it says is necessary to prevent the eastward expansion of the Nato military alliance.

The roughly 140 anti-Moscow votes in those two polls exceeded the two-thirds threshold, but it remains unclear whether UN members would back the more drastic step of ejecting Russia from the rights chamber.

Moscow has been spurned at the UN since it invaded its neighbour Ukraine on February 24. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called the assault “morally unacceptable, politically indefensible and militarily nonsensical”.

The UN Human Rights Council has condemned reported rights abuses by Russian forces and launched an investigation to hold perpetrators to account. The UN’s International Court of Justice in The Hague has ordered Russia to halt the invasion, saying it lacked justification.

Ukrainian diplomats have gone further, challenging Russia’s right to a permanent UN Security Council seat on the grounds that Moscow assumed the seat held by the defunct Soviet Union in 1991 without following the correct protocols.

Updated: March 29, 2022, 4:52 PM