© Università degli Studi di Padova - Credits: HCE Web agency
On 7 April 2022 the General Assembly adopted a resolution on the suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority (minus abstentions). Ninety-three states voted in favour of the resolution. Twenty-four members voted against, Belarus, China, Cuba, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Zimbabwe amongst them. Fifty-eight nations abstained from voting, including India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Suspension is possible under section 8 of the 2006 General Assembly resolution that established the Council (A/RES/60/251), according to which “the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights”.
The meeting marked the resumption of a special emergency session on the war in Ukraine and followed reports of violations committed by Russian forces. Before the voting took place, the Ukrainian Ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, asked for the member states’ support for the resolution. He recalled the frightening events in Bucha and other Ukrainian cities to show the scale of human rights violations committed by Russia. Mr Kyslytsya drew parallels with the Rwanda genocide, highlighting that, among other factors, the world’s community’s indifference is to blame for the 1994 tragic events in Rwanda. He asked not to repeat such mistakes.
The US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, stated that the adoption of the resolution is “an important and historic moment” and “a collective step in the right direction”, which demonstrates support for the people of Ukraine. The European Union delegation shared this point of view. Ambassador Olaf Skoog, head of the EU delegation, said that the resolution is “a strong signal of accountability” that “hopefully will help preventing and discouraging more violations of human rights”. He emphasised also the fact that the scale and gravity of Russia’s violations in Ukraine “call for a strong, united international response”. On the other hand, the ambassador of China, Zhang Jun, said that such a move would be like “adding fuel to the fire” and will set a new dangerous precedent.
After the adoption of the resolution, Deputy Permanent Representative Kuzmin announced that Russia had already decided to leave the Human Rights Council before the end of its term. According to Kuzmin it is dictated by the fact that the Council is monopolised by a group of States who use it for their short-term aims.
It is not the first time that a Member State has been suspended in its rights of membership. In 2011 it happened to Libya, following violent protests repressions by Muammar Gaddafi.