United Nations — Russia was suspended from the U.N. Human Rights Council on Thursday for what the Resolution called reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” and “violations of international humanitarian law” in its invasion of Ukraine.
The 193-nation General Assembly vote – the only one in 11 years that suspended a nation from the Human Rights Council – required a ⅔ super majority of those present and voting, a count that excludes abstentions. The resolution passed 93-24, with 58 nations abstaining.
The General Assembly vote Thursday on whether to suspend Russia from the U.N.’s main human rights body was an initiative driven by the Biden administration in response to the brutal killing of hundreds of civilians in Ukraine by Russian forces.
The move by the U.S., UK and their allies to remove Russia from the powerless 47-nation Geneva-based human rights council – in which many member nations are human rights abusers – further isolates Russia politically from the world despite Russia’s veto power on the Security Council, diplomats said after the vote.
Because abstensions would not count in the tally of the resolution’s passage and the vote was expected to be more divided thanvotes, Russia had sent a warning to several nations.
In a letter obtained by CBS News, Russia cautioned member states that either a vote in support of the resolution or an abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties.
Nations speaking against the U.S.-led effort before the vote included North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, China, Cuba, Senegal, Kazakhstan, South Africa, Egypt, Mexico and Syria, but not all voted against the resolution. Some instead chose to abstain.
China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun, who voted against the measure and in support of Russia, called the vote a “hasty move.”
“It is like adding fuel to the fire, which is not conducive to the de-escalation of conflicts,” the ambassador said.
Ambassador T.S. Tirumirti said that India abstained “for reasons of both substance and process,” saying that “since the inception of the Ukrainian conflict, India has stood for peace, dialogue and diplomacy. We believe that no solution can be arrived at by shedding blood and at the cost of innocent lives.”
“If India has chosen any side, it is the side of peace and it is for an immediate end to violence,” Tirumirti said.
After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and Biden administration Cabinet member Linda Thomas-Greenfield called it “An important and historic day.”
“Countries from around the globe have voted to suspend Russia from the U.N. Human Rights Council, we have collectively sent a clear message that Russia will be held accountable,” she tweeted.
“We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the U.N.,” Thomas-Greenfield, President Biden’s top U.N. envoy, planned to say in the afternoon session of the vote, according to an advance copy of her remarks sent to CBS News.
Although the council does not have much power and its actions are not legally binding, it announced last month that it appointed top rights investigators to gather testimony and evidence from survivors that would be turned over to an international court. One of those beginning investigations is the International Criminal Court, which is looking into alleged grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who was in Brussels meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at NATO headquarters, said after the vote, “War criminals have no place at U.N. bodies protecting human rights.”
“It’s important to mobilize the entire world that stands for democracy and respect of the rule-based order,” he said.
Russia’s U.N. deputy Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin called the allegations “untruthful” and Russia’s first deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy announced on twitter the country would be withdrawing from the council, where it was in the second year of its three-year term. “After today’s scandalous vote by Western countries and those who for different reasons come to their heel Russia withdrew from HRC before the end of its term,” he said.
Ukraine’s U.N. Envoy Sergiy Kyslytsya responded, “You cannot submit your resignation after you are fired.”