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UN votes to withdraw Russia from Human Rights Council

WASHINGTON — The United Nations on Thursday suspended Russia from its seat on the Human Rights Council as the world speaks out about atrocities in Ukraine.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield introduced the proposal earlier in the week following accusations that Russian troops tortured and killed Ukrainian civilians in Bucha, a suburb near kyiv.

The bodies were discovered after Moscow withdrew its troops from Bucha. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the aftermath, which he saw firsthand on Monday, “genocide” and accused Russia of war crimes. The Kremlin has previously described its military actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” and denied targeting civilians.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on threats to international peace and security, March 18, 2022, in New York.

Timothy A. Clary | AFP | Getty Images

Thomas-Greenfield said on Tuesday that Russia’s membership of the council hurts its credibility, “undermines the whole of the UN and that’s just plain wrong.”

The resolution to strip Russia of its seat on the Human Rights Council was adopted with 93 votes for, 24 against and 58 abstentions.

Belarus, China, Iran, Russia and Syria were among the UN members who voted against the resolution. India abstained from voting.

Members of the UN Human Rights Council, who are expected to uphold high human rights standards, are elected for three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.

Libya is the only country to be suspended from the 47-member Geneva-based council. The North African country was suspended in 2011 after a violent crackdown on protesters by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.

Ahead of the vote, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya urged members to make the “obvious and obvious” decision to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in New York, US, on March 4, 2022.

Carlos Allegri | Reuters

“Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian towns and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents were killed, tortured, raped, kidnapped and robbed by the Russian military, illustrate how far the Russian Federation has drifted from its initial declarations in the field of human rights,” Kyslytsya told the United Nations.

He urged countries not to be “indifferent spectators”, adding that a no “means pulling the trigger” and siding with Russia.

On Tuesday, Zelenskyy called for a Nuremberg-style tribunal to investigate and prosecute Russian war crimes.

“The Russian servicemen and those who gave them orders must be brought to justice immediately for war crimes in Ukraine,” he said in his nearly 20-minute speech to the United Nations Security Council.

Zelenskyy’s appearance before the international body followed Ukrainian claims that at least 300 civilians were tortured and killed in Bucha by Russian troops.

Over the weekend, the Russian invasion sparked renewed global outrage as gruesome images emerged of bodies strewn across the streets, some with their hands tied and gunshot wounds to the back of their heads .

On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was working with the UN’s International Criminal Court to investigate Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

“Targeting and murdering civilians is a war crime. All the facts must be established and all those responsible for these atrocities must be brought to justice,” the alliance leader said on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg, who briefed reporters at NATO headquarters ahead of a two-day meeting of foreign ministers, said the alliance had reliable evidence of war crimes committed in Bucha, as well as other towns from Ukraine.


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