Russia Suspended From United Nations' Human Rights Council After U.S. Push

The United Nations' General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

The move comes after a recent wave of accusations concerning war crimes and widespread killings of civilians committed by Russia in Ukraine, as well as a push by U.S. officials to remove Russia from the council. Ninety-three nations voted in favor of suspending Russia from the council, while 24 were against and 58 abstained.

This is only the second time in history that a nation has been suspended from the council, which consists of 47 nations and is tasked with addressing human rights violations around the world and making recommendations based on its findings. The first time was in 2011, when Libya was suspended because of violence against anti-government protesters by forces loyal to leader Muammar el-Qaddafi.

As more reports of civilian killings and images of mass graves emerge from Bucha and other places in Ukraine, many nations want to condemn Russia's brutality by intensifying measures against the country. This includes further tightening of economic sanctions and providing more military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

"War criminals have no place in UN bodies aimed at protecting human rights," Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said in a Twitter statement. "Grateful to all member states which supported the relevant UNGA resolution and chose the right side of history."

UN Suspends Russia from HRC
The United Nations' General Assembly has voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council. Above, the board showing the passage of the resolution on Thursday. Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

Russia was in its second year of a three-year term with the council. The suspension bars Russians from speaking and voting, but they can still attend the council's debates, Reuters reported. An unnamed diplomat told the news agency that Russia will "probably still try to influence the council through proxies."

Nations like North Korea, Cuba, Syria, China, Iran and Ethiopia voted against suspending Russia from the council. As for former members of the Soviet Union, the decision was split almost evenly, with Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Russia voting against the suspension and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine voting for it. Other former Soviet nations did not vote.

U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said earlier this week that Russia's participation on the council was "a farce," urging the General Assembly to remove it. She cited the reported atrocities in Bucha and "devastation across Ukraine" that "require us to now match our words with action."

Gennady Gatilov, Russia's ambassador to the U.N., responded by accusing the U.S. of attempting to "exploit the Ukraine crisis for its own benefit in an attempt either to exclude or suspend Russia from international organizations."

Appealing to some member states before the vote, Russia said the suspension is a political move "being supported by countries that want to preserve their dominant position and control over the world," according to the Associated Press.

In a statement posted to her Twitter account, Thomas-Greenfield called Thursday an "important and historic day."

"We have collectively sent a clear message that Russia will be held accountable," she wrote.

Update 4/7/22, 1:45 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.