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UN General Assembly suspends Russia from top human rights body

UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted to suspend Russia from the world’s leading human rights organization over allegations of horrific human rights abuses by Russian soldiers in Ukraine , which the United States and Ukraine have described as war crimes.

The vote was 93 to 24 with 58 abstentions, significantly lower than the vote on two resolutions the assembly passed last month demanding an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine, the withdrawal of all Russian troops and the protection of civilians. These two resolutions have been endorsed by at least 140 nations.

Russia is the second country to have its rights to join the Human Rights Council created in 2006. In 2011, the assembly suspended Libya when unrest in the North African country toppled the leader longtime Muammar Gaddafi.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has launched the campaign to suspend Russia from its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council following videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha littered with corpses of what appeared to be civilians after the withdrawal of Russian soldiers. . The deaths sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions against Russia, which has vehemently denied its troops were responsible.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

Ukraine’s UN ambassador on Thursday urged UN members to suspend Russia from the world body’s top human rights body, saying it had committed “horrible human rights violations and abuses that would amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

Sergiy Kyslytsya introduced the US-initiated resolution before the vote of the 193 members of the General Assembly.

“Russia’s actions are beyond pale,” he said. “Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the foundations of international peace and security.”

Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin urged members to vote “no”.

“What we see today is an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominant position and its total control,” he said. “We reject false allegations against us based on staged events and widely publicized forgeries.”

Approval would require a two-thirds majority of assembly members voting “yes” or “no”, with abstentions not counting in the calculation.

Kyslytsya responded to Russia’s complaints about the proceedings by saying, “We have heard, repeatedly, the same perverse logic of the aggressor trying to present himself as the victim.”

And his message to those who would abstain: He quoted the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel: “Indifference is always the friend of the enemy, because it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is amplified when he or she feels forgotten.”

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has called for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council following videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha littered with corpses of what appeared to be civilians. The deaths 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 have 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 Assembly’s emergency special session on Ukraine would resume on Thursday morning, when the resolution “to suspend the rights of membership of the Human Rights Council ‘man of the Russian Federation’ will be put to the vote.

While the Human Rights Council is based in Geneva, its members are elected by the 193-nation General Assembly for a three-year term. The March 2006 resolution that established the rights council states that the assembly can suspend the membership rights of a country “that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights”.

The brief resolution put to the vote expresses “serious concern at the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ukraine, in particular at 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. »

The General Assembly voted 140 to 5 with 38 abstentions on March 24 on a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of millions of civilians and homes, schools and hospitals essential to their survival.

The vote was almost exactly the same as for a March 2 resolution passed by the assembly demanding an immediate Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all its forces and the protection of all civilians. This vote was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

Thomas-Greenfield urged the 140 members who voted in favor of these two resolutions to support Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council.

Her problem is simple, she said: “The images of Bucha and the devastation across Ukraine now compel us to match words with action.”

“We cannot allow a member state that subverts all the principles that are dear to us to continue to sit on the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.

Supporters of the resolution were optimistic that it would pass, but not necessarily with the support of 140 countries.

Russia has called on an unknown number of countries to vote “no”, saying abstention or refusal to vote 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 expel it from the Human Rights Council is political and supported by countries that want to preserve their dominant position and their control over the world.

These nations want to pursue “the policy of neo-colonialism of human rights” in international relations, he said, saying that Russia’s priority is to promote and defend human rights, including at the multilateral level in the Human Rights Council.

Russia’s Ambassador to Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, called the US action “unfounded and purely emotional bravado that looks good on camera – just the way the US likes it”.

“Washington is exploiting the Ukrainian crisis to its own advantage in an attempt to either exclude or suspend Russia from international organizations,” Gatilov said, in remarks relayed 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 – all currently have seats on the Human Rights Council. man, which the United States joined this year.

The only country whose council membership rights were stripped was Libya in 2011, when unrest in the North African country toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, the council’s spokesman said. , Rolando Gomez.

No permanent member of the Security Council has ever had their membership revoked from any UN body.

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