India abstains in UN General Assembly on vote to suspend Russia from UN Human Rights Council

T S Tirumurti

United Nations: India on Thursday abstained in the UN General Assembly on a vote moved by the US to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over allegations that Russian soldiers killed civilians while retreating from towns near the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.

The 193-member General Assembly voted Thursday on the draft resolution titled ‘Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council'.

Since January this year, India has abstained on eight occasions on procedural votes and draft resolutions in the UN Security Council, the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council that deplored Russian aggression against Ukraine.

New Delhi had on Tuesday unequivocally condemned the "deeply disturbing" reports of civilian killings in the Ukrainian city of Bucha and supported the call for an independent investigation, as it underlined that when innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option.

"The situation in Ukraine has not shown any significant improvement since the Council last discussed the issue. The security situation has only deteriorated, as well as its humanitarian consequences," India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T S Tirumurti told a meeting on Ukraine in the UN Security Council Tuesday that was addressed for the first time by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The General Assembly 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.” Abstentions do not count and the resolution required two-thirds of yes/no votes to be adopted.

The Assembly voted on the draft resolution that “decides to suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation.”

Russia's current membership on the Council ends in December 2023.

The only time a Member State was suspended from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council was Libya in 2011 when in an unprecedented move a resolution was adopted in the General Assembly that had expressed “deep concern about the human rights situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya” in the wake of Muammar Al-Gaddafi's violent crackdown on anti-Government protestors.

The draft resolution titled ‘Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council' notes the Human Rights Council resolution of March 4, 2022, in particular its grave concern regarding reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” and “violations of international humanitarian law” committed by Russia during its aggression against Ukraine.

The draft resolution expresses “grave concern” at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, particularly at the reports of violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by Russia, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights. It recognises strong expressions of concern in statements by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Spokesperson for President of the General Assembly Abdulla Shahid, Paulina Kubiak Greer, told reporters that the draft resolution was submitted for co-sponsorship by Ukraine, Antigua and Barbuda, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Republic of Moldova, the United Kingdom and United States.

US Ambassador at UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield had told reporters in Bucharest, Romania this week that Washington, in close coordination with Ukraine, European countries and other partners at the UN, was going to seek Russia's suspension from the UN Human Rights Council.

"Russia should not have a position of authority in that body, nor should we allow Russia to use their role on the Council as a tool of propaganda to suggest they have a legitimate concern about human rights...Russia's participation on the Human Rights Council is a farce. It hurts the credibility of the Council and the UN writ large. And it is simply wrong. Which is why we believe it is time for the UN General Assembly to suspend them."


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