UNITED NATIONS (AN) — The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council on Thursday, pointing to evidence of grave war crimes in Ukraine.
Delegates to the New York-based 193-nation assembly voted 93-24, with 58 abstentions, to oust Russia from the U.N.'s top human rights body in Geneva, but the vote margin was significantly less than two previous resolutions to demand an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine.
Videos and photos of corpse-strewn streets in Bucha, Ukraine, on the outskirts of Kyiv, set the stage for this latest showdown vote based on global outrage over the killings in Ukraine and a campaign led by U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
The vote marked only the second instance in which a nation has been suspended from participation in the 16-year-old Geneva-based council. In 2011, the assembly unanimously suspended Libya's membership on the 47-nation Human Rights Council in the wake of a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters by Libyan forces.
'Just plain wrong'
Also Thursday, German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that German foreign intelligence agency BND intercepted radio messages from Russian military sources discussing indiscriminate shootings in Bucha, where local officials say Russian forces killed more than 300 people, including 50 execution-style. Russia denies committing any atrocities in Bucha.
"Russia should not have a position of authority in a body whose purpose — whose very purpose — is to promote respect for human rights. Not only is it the height of hypocrisy, it is dangerous," Thomas-Greenfield said. "Russia's participation on the Human Rights Council hurts the council's credibility. It undermines the entire U.N. and it is just plain wrong."
The Geneva-based council's member nations are elected to three-year terms, but the 2006 resolution that created the council authorizes suspension on at least a two-thirds majority vote — abstentions are not counted — if a nation "commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”