Russia was suspended from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council on Thursday. Ninety-three countries voted for the expulsion, the first of its kind in U.N. history.
Momentum for the move began earlier this week, when reports surfaced that Russian soldiers tortured, raped, and executed civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, at least 1,563 civilians have been killed; schools, hospitals, and apartment buildings have been targeted by Russian airstrikes.
“Russia’s actions are beyond the pale,” Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador, said before introducing the U.S.-written resolution to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council. “Russia is not only committing human rights violations, it is shaking the underpinnings of international peace and security.”
“We believe that the members of the Russian forces committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia needs to be held accountable,” US Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Monday. “Russia’s participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce.”
On Thursday, 24 countries, including China and Vietnam, joined Russia in voting against the resolution, while 58 nations abstained. The ninety-three votes for Russia’s suspension exceeded the needed two-thirds threshold.
The New York Times provides important context:
The General Assembly, which elects members of the Human Rights Council, has suspended only one other country: Libya, in March 2011. But that action, taken after President Moammar al-Qaddafi launched a ferocious crackdown on antigovernment protesters, was taken with the support of Libyan diplomats in New York and Geneva who had dissociated themselves from the actions of their government.
Russia’s suspension, by contrast, comes in the face of its blanket denials of any rights violations in Ukraine. The Kremlin had warned that it would consider votes in support of the resolution or even abstentions as “unfriendly” acts that would have consequences for its relations with those countries.
Russia’s suspension is the first time one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council has lost its membership rights in any United Nations organization, rights groups said.
The Washington Post gives background on the atrocities in Bucha:
Germany’s foreign intelligence service claims to have intercepted radio communications in which Russian soldiers discuss indiscriminate killings in Ukraine. In two communications, Russian troops described how they question soldiers as well as civilians, and proceed to shoot them, according to an intelligence official familiar with the findings who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.
World leaders have responded with tougher sanctions and promises to send Ukraine more weapons — measures that Ukrainian officials have welcomed but say aren’t enough to help prevent future atrocities.