The UN General Assembly suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, citing claims of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by Russian troops entering Ukraine.
The US-led initiative received 93 votes in favor, 24 votes against, and 58 abstentions. Suspending Russia from the 47-member council required a two-thirds majority of voting members – abstentions do not count.
Suspensions are uncommon. Libya was suspended in 2011 due to violence by forces loyal to then-leader Muammar Qaddafi against demonstrators.
The 193-member General Assembly draft resolution expresses “grave concern” over the continued human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, including claims of Russian rights violations.
According to a note seen by Reuters, Russia had warned countries that a yes vote or abstention would be perceived as a “unfriendly gesture” with ramifications for bilateral ties.
The Geneva-based council, which cannot make legally enforceable decisions, was in its second year of a three-year tenure for Russia. Its rulings, on the other hand, carry crucial political messages and can authorize probes.
Moscow is one of the council’s most outspoken members, and its suspension prevents it from speaking or voting, according to authorities, but diplomats could still attend deliberations. “They’d almost certainly try to sway the Council through proxies,” a Geneva-based official added.
Since Russia’s incursion, the council has begun an investigation into claims of human rights breaches, including probable war crimes, in Ukraine.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, the United Nations General Assembly has passed two resolutions condemning Russia, with 141 and 140 votes in favor, respectively. Moscow claims to be conducting a “special operation” in Ukraine to demilitarize the country.
After Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing hundreds of people in the village of Bucha, the US declared that it would pursue Russia’s suspension.
Russia denies targeting Ukrainian people. “Not a single civilian suffered from any type of violence” when Bucha was under Russian control, UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said on Tuesday.