Aug 17, 2022
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On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” in Ukraine. Russia responded by announcing it was leaving the UNHRC. 93 countries voted in favor of the suspension, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained. A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council. In such a vote, abstentions are not counted.

This marks the first time a permanent member of the UN Security Council had its membership revoked from any United Nations body

The vote follows a UNHRC investigation into allegations of rights violations, including possible war crimes, in Ukraine that was initiated last month.

The resolution on Thursday was the third adopted by the 193-member General Assembly since Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24. The two previous General Assembly resolutions denouncing Russia were adopted with 141 and 140 votes in favor.

Israel, which has struggled to maintain a neutral position in the conflict, voted against Russia. China abstained in the previous two General Assembly votes concerning the war in Ukraine, voted against suspending Russia on Thrusday. Iran and Syria also opposed the suspension.

Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention will be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties

Russia is currently in the second year of a three-year term. A suspension can be reversed by a subsequent vote.

Russia’s deputy U.N. Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin condemned the vote as an “illegitimate and politically motivated step”. He then announced that his government had decided to quit the organization.

Ukraine’s U.N. Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya told reporters, “You do not submit your resignation after you are fired.”

The US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations “sent a clear message that the suffering of victims and survivors will not be ignored.”

“We ensured a persistent and egregious human rights violator will not be allowed to occupy a position of leadership on human rights at the U.N.,” she said in remarks to the General Assembly on Thursday.

Russia quitting the UNHRC has been compared to the US quitting the UNHRC in 2018 over what it called chronic bias against Israel. The US was re-elected to the council last year.