New Delhi: The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Thursday suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" by invading Russian troops in Ukraine. Ninety-three countries of the 193-member UNGA voted in favour of removing Russia from the UNHRC and adopted the resolution moved by the United States. Twenty-four countries voted against the resolution and 58 nations abstained, including India.
Rules permit suspension of a country from the 47-member UNHRC if two-thirds of the nations present and voting at the UNGA vote in favour of such a resolution.
Abstentions are not counted. The resolution, “Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council”, was tabled after the world was shocked by images of mass graves and corpses lying on the streets in the Ukranian town of Bucha near the capital Kyiv which was discovered after the town was freed from the control of Russian troops. While the West and Ukraine have accused Russian troops of carrying out the massacre, Russia has denied these allegations. Nonetheless, Moscow has come under increasing pressure following the revelations.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, India has abstained from voting at the UN on all resolutions regarding Russia’s role. It has also not criticised Russia for its military offensive in Ukraine, even as Western pressure is growing on New Delhi to take a tougher line against Moscow. India at the UNGA on Thursday said it had abstained during the vote for “reasons of both substance and process”, adding that it has stood for peace and an immediate end to violence. India said it firmly believes that “all decisions should be taken respecting due process as all our democratic polity and structures enjoin us to do so” and that “this applies to international organisations as well, particularly the UN”.
Formed in 2006, only one country has previously been suspended from the Human Rights Council. The UNGA unanimously voted to suspend Libya in 2011 following evidence of mass human rights violations.
Russia's suspension is seen as more than a loss of prestige. It is a signal that two-thirds of the members of the UNGA believe it is not fit to belong to an international human rights body.
In the “Explanation of Vote”, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN T.S. Tirumurti said, “India has abstained on the resolution adopted in the (UN) General Assembly today. We do so for reasons of both substance and process. 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. We continue to remain deeply concerned at the worsening situation and reiterate our call for an end to all hostilities. When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option.”
Mr Tirumurti added, “Recent reports of civilian killings at Bucha are deeply disturbing. We have unequivocally condemned these killings and support the call for an independent investigation. The impact of the crisis has also been felt beyond the region with increasing food and energy costs especially for many developing countries. It is in our collective interest to work constructively both inside the UN and outside towards seeking an early resolution to the conflict. India has been at the forefront of protecting human rights… We firmly believe that all decisions should be taken respecting due process as all our democratic polity and structures enjoin us to do so. This applies to international organisations as well, particularly the UN.”
"An important and historic day. Countries from around the globe have voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council. We have collectively sent a clear message that Russia will be held accountable," US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, according to reports which also said Ukranian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that "Russia's rights of membership in the UN Human Rights Council has just been suspended. War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights. Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history."
The UNGA resumed its Emergency Special Session after a request from Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Japan, Liberia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and the Head of the Delegation of the European Union, on behalf of 27 members of the European Union. The Human Rights Council consists of 47 Member States, elected directly and individually by secret ballot by the majority of the members of the General Assembly. 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, according to news agency reports.