UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday on a U.S.-initiated resolution to suspend Russia from the world organization’s top human rights body over allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians as they retreated from the region. around the capital of Ukraine.
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has called for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council in the wake of videos and photos of streets in the city of Bucha littered with corpses of what they appeared to be civilians. The deaths have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions against Russia, which has vehemently denied its troops were responsible.
“We believe that members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine and we believe that Russia must be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said Monday. “Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a farce.”
General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said the special emergency session of the assembly on Ukraine will resume on Thursday morning, when the resolution “to suspend membership rights in the Human Rights Council” will be put to the vote. of the Russian Federation”.
Although the Human Rights Council is based in Geneva, its members are elected by the 193-nation General Assembly for three-year terms. The March 2006 resolution establishing the rights council says the assembly can suspend the membership rights of a country “that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
The short resolution to be put to the vote expresses “grave concern about the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, in particular about reports of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights.”
Approval would require a two-thirds majority of assembly members voting “yes” or “no,” not counting abstentions in the calculation.
The General Assembly voted 140-5 with 38 abstentions on March 24 on a resolution that blames Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calls for an immediate ceasefire and protection for millions of civilians and critical homes, schools and hospitals for his survival.
The vote was almost exactly the same as for a March 2 resolution the assembly adopted demanding an immediate Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all its forces and the protection of all civilians. That vote was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.
Thomas-Greenfield urged the 140 members who voted in favor of those two resolutions to support Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council.
His problem is simple, he said: “The images of Bucha and the devastation across Ukraine now force us to match our words with action.”
“We cannot allow a member state that is subverting all the principles that we hold dear to remain part of the UN Human Rights Council,” he said.
Supporters of the resolution were optimistic about its passage, though not necessarily with the support of 140 countries.
Russia asked an unspecified number of countries to vote “no”, saying that abstaining or not voting would be considered a hostile act and affect bilateral relations.
In its so-called “non-paper” obtained by The Associated Press, Russia said the attempt to oust him from the Human Rights Council is political and backed by countries that want to preserve their dominant position and control over the world.
Those nations want to continue “the policy of human rights neo-colonialism” in international relations, he said, saying that Russia’s priority is to promote and defend human rights, including multilaterally in the Human Rights Council.
Russia’s ambassador to Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, called the US move “unfounded and purely emotional bravado that looks good on camera, just the way the US likes it.”
“Washington exploits the Ukraine crisis for its own benefit in an attempt to exclude or suspend Russia from international organizations,” Gatilov said, in comments carried by a spokesman for the Russian diplomatic mission.
Russia and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power — Britain, China, France and the United States — currently have seats on the Human Rights Council, which the United States rejoined this year.
The only country to have its council membership rights stripped was Libya in 2011, when turmoil in the North African country toppled leader Moammar Gadhafi, council spokesman Rolando Gomez said.
No permanent member of the Security Council has ever had their membership in any UN body revoked.