The UN General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, deepening Moscow’s isolation over the apparent execution of civilians during its invasion of Ukraine.
Ninety-three nations voted to suspend Russia, 24 voted against and 58 abstained, including most Arab countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. Others including Syria voted against its expulsion.
A two-thirds majority of the 193-nation UN General Assembly’s voting members was needed to remove Moscow from the Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva. Abstentions did not count.
The resolution, pushed by the US and others, called for Russia’s suspension from the chamber over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by invading Russian forces in Ukraine.
The vote came amid global outrage over civilian killings in parts of Ukraine recently recaptured from Russian forces, like Bucha, near the capital Kyiv, including people apparently executed with their hands tied behind their backs.
Moscow strenuously denies targeting civilians and calls the scenes from Bucha a “staged provocation”. It insists that its invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, was needed to halt Nato’s expansion eastward.
Russia’s deputy UN envoy Gennady Kuzmin called the vote “illegitimate and politically motivated”.
The 47-member Human Rights Council is the UN’s top body for protecting and promoting human rights globally, through diplomatic pressure, launching investigations and appointing experts.
Before the vote, Russia urged UN members in a diplomatic note to “speak out against the anti-Russian resolution” and warned that yes votes and abstentions would represent an “unfriendly gesture” likely to affect bilateral ties.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also called for Moscow to be kicked out of the UN Security Council, where it enjoys veto powers, so “it cannot block decisions about its own aggression, its own war”.
Russia, a permanent Security Council member, was in its second year of a three-year term in the Human Rights Council. It was the first such UN power to lose its rights at a UN body.
The UN Security Council’s four other veto-wielding permanent members – Britain, China, France, and the US – all currently have seats on the Human Rights Council, which the US rejoined this year.
The UN General Assembly in March 2011 unanimously suspended Libya from the Human Rights Council because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.