Russia Has Been Suspended From Its Human Rights Council
Russia has been suspended from its Human Rights Council (HRC), following mounting evidence of war crimes in Ukraine, including the alleged massacre of hundreds of Ukrainian civilians by retreating Russian forces in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted, 93 to 24, with 58 abstentions, including India, to adopt a resolution ‘Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council’, suspending Moscow from the UN body.
"The Russian side considers the resolution adopted by the UNGA on April 7 in New York to suspend the membership of the Russian Federation in the UN Human Rights Council as an unlawful and politically motivated step in order to defiantly punish a sovereign UN member state that pursues an independent domestic and foreign policy," the ministry said in the statement. 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. Russia showcased its strong displeasure and clarified by stating that any vote in favour of removing Russia to the council or abstention would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” and have consequences on diplomatic relations with Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Russia’s removal from the U.N. Security Council. It’s a near impossibility, as Russia would effectively need to approve its own removal as it holds veto power as one of the Security Council’s permanent members.
The UN Human Rights Council consists of 47 members and is based in Geneva. Russia joined the body in January 2021 as one of 15 countries elected by the General Assembly to serve three-year terms. Under the 2006 resolution that established the Council, the General Assembly can suspend a country from membership if it commits gross and systematic violations of human rights. 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.
Since January this year, India has abstained 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 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.
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 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”.
Several countries opposed the resolution on the grounds that it had been put to vote before an independent inquiry had presented its findings. Some countries, like India, were of the view that adopting the resolution would violate due process and impact the credibility of the organisation. In addition to the Commission of Inquiry established on March 4, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, as well as various U.N. countries, including India, had called for an independent inquiry into the brutal killing of civilians in the Bucha suburb of Kyiv.