ELEVENTH EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION, 10TH & 11TH MEETINGS (AM & PM)
Continuing its emergency special session today, the General Assembly took the extraordinary step of adopting a resolution that suspended the Russian Federation’s membership in the Human Rights Council, doing so in the wake of recently revealed images and testimonies of atrocities perpetrated against the civilian population of Ukraine.
The Assembly adopted the draft resolution by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 24 against, with 58 abstentions, signaling the international community’s strong censure of Moscow’s aggressive actions towards a neighbouring State.
By the text, the Assembly expressed its grave concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, noting that the violations were of such a degree that the Russian Federation must forfeit its membership in the intergovernmental body until such time as a review is considered appropriate.
Ukraine’s delegate, introducing the text, drew a clear, straight line from the brutalities being carried out in his country to the genocide perpetrated in Rwanda in 1994, the harbingers of which, he said, were “largely ignored” by the United Nations Secretariat. He underscored further parallels, including the fact that Rwanda was a non-permanent member of the Security Council at the time and used its seat as a pulpit for its “genocidal regime”. By the same token, the Russian Federation has instrumentalized its place on that organ “to spread lies almost daily”, he cautioned.
He went on to delineate the atrocities uncovered in the wake of Moscow’s withdrawal from Bucha and other Ukrainian cities and villages, describing a scene where “thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped and abducted and robbed by the Russian army”.
Warning delegates not to abstain on the vote, he quoted the words of writer and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, who in 1999 cautioned that “Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning — it is an end. And indifference is always a friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor, never his victim whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.” Noting that the resolution had been drafted by a cross-regional group of two dozen States and co-sponsored by more than 50, he said that voting “yes” would allow delegates to prove they were not the indifferent bystanders that Mr. Wiesel cautioned against.
Speaking after the adoption of the resolution and the suspension of its Human Rights Council membership rights, the Russian Federation’s representative said that his country had decided to suspend its membership of that body before the end of its term. It was taking this step, he said, because that Council has been hijacked by one group of States for its own purposes. He underscored that his country could not remain as part of a mechanism that enables States to blackmail others for their own purposes, especially as those same States had blatantly violated human rights for years.
Several representatives questioned the statement made by the Russian Federation’s delegate, with the United Kingdom’s representative noting it “sounds like someone being fired tendering their resignation”. Later, he observed that following on the heels of the suspension, the declaration of the Russian Federation of its withdrawal would trigger a byelection. This means that a Member State from the region will be able to take the seat and protect human rights, whereas, he said, quoting the words of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “it was difficult to find a war crime that Russia did not commit in Bucha”.
Several representatives took to the floor to decry the resolution, with Iran’s representative rejecting it as “politically driven”. He stressed his country’s opposition to the use of the Organization’s human rights mechanisms in the service of the political gains of certain States. Not only that, but the resolution will further deepen the existing confrontation, he said.
In a similar vein, Syria’s delegate said that not only were human rights being politicized, but some States were applying double standards in the consideration of these liberties. They were choosing to shine a spotlight on some nations while ignoring violations carried out in others, depending on what best suited their political ambitions.
China’s representative also opposed the politicization of human rights as well as the application of pressure on certain States in the name of such rights. A hasty move in the Assembly had forced countries to choose sides, setting new precedents, he said. A move to deprive a State of its legitimate membership in the Human Rights Council should be founded on facts and not through a text whose drafting had not been conducted in an open fashion.
Cuba’s delegate, meanwhile, cautioned against activating the suspension of the membership clause in the Council, noting that it could be used to achieve political goals. “It is the Russian Federation today, but tomorrow it could be any of our countries, especially nations of the South, which do not support the interests of domination, and which firmly defend their independence,” he said. He pointed out the irony of the fact that the United States was opposed to the creation of the Council at its inception but has now gone on to activate one of its most contentious clauses.
Several delegates chose to highlight the urgent need for continued mediation and diplomacy, with South Africa’s representative stressing that “Wars end when dialogues begin, and wars endure when there is no dialogue”. All parties stand to gain from a negotiated outcome and to lose from violent conflict, he said, praising efforts by both Ukraine and the Russian Federation to hold talks without preconditions.
Cambodia’s representative cautioned that the removal of the Russian Federation as a Council member would only isolate it and further entrench the situation in Ukraine. Rather, there was a need to build an environment more conducive to dialogue. “At a fragile time for world peace, security and stability, the engagement among the Member States in all relevant United Nations bodies, including the Human Rights Council, is very important,” he said.
Mexico’s delegate stressed that the central focus in this regard should be to bring to justice those responsible for atrocities and not to suspend any one State from a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.
The creation of an Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine was welcomed by many delegates, including Senegal’s representative. The findings of that mechanism will provide a comprehensive view of the extent of alleged violations, he said, noting that only then can appropriate measures in response be considered. The resolution today anticipates an outcome that has not been confirmed, which is why his delegation abstained on the vote.
Echoing those sentiments, the United Arab Emirates’ delegate said that due process must be followed with regard to any violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Her delegation abstained on the resolution as the bodies that comprise the international order were not supposed to be “a club for the like-minded”, but rather spaces where nations could talk freely with one another.
Offering a different view, Myanmar’s representative said it was clear that atrocities were being carried out against the citizens of Ukraine. He drew attention to the images coming out of Bucha that, he said, resonated decidedly with the people of Myanmar, who have gone through “massacre after massacre” at the hands of the illegal military junta.
Delegates also expressed their conviction that there was already evidence that the hand of Moscow could be seen in reports of atrocities, with Lithuania’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Baltic States, pointing out that the United Nations itself — through its Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) — had reported on violations by the Russian Federation, which belied the need for further delay. The Office has documented instances of cluster munition use by the Russian Federation in populated areas on at least two dozen occasions, as well as the arbitrary detention and possible enforced disappearances of journalists and civil society actors, he said.
The United States’ representative said she had visited Republic of Moldova and Romania a few days ago and met with women and children who shared stories of the violence committed by the Russian armed forces. She also cited credible reports of landmines and booby traps left behind in the wake of the Russian Federation’s failure and subsequent withdrawal in some areas. She went on to note the release of images from Bucha of corpses in the street, some with their hands tied behind their backs in what appeared to be summary executions. Against this backdrop, she said the world was watching to see if the United Nations would meet this moment. Ensuring that human rights violators cannot occupy a leadership position in the human rights arena is a step in the right direction, she said.
Also speaking were the representatives of Kazakhstan, Venezuela, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Egypt, Brazil, Chile, Belarus, India, Timor-Leste, Qatar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Indonesia, Panama, Thailand, Viet Nam, Uzbekistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Algeria, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Kiribati, Netherlands (also on behalf of Belgium and Luxembourg), France, Denmark (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Georgia, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Liechtenstein, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Spain, Slovakia, Germany, Slovenia, Canada, Japan, Australia, Portugal, New Zealand, Botswana, Romania, Austria, Ireland, Israel and Malta.
Also speaking were observers for the European Union and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Action on Draft Resolution
SERGIY KYSLYTSYA (Ukraine), introducing the draft resolution titled “Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council” (document A/ES-11/L.4), said that one early morning of April 1993, United Nations delegates had coffee, kissed their loved ones and went to the Headquarters, to do business as usual. That same morning, United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali sent a Special Rapporteur to investigate extrajudicial arbitrary executions in Rwanda and reported that a more robust United Nations response was needed. The findings that abuses could be precursors to genocide were largely ignored by the overstretched Secretariat of the Organization.
In early April 1994, the Security Council received letters in which the Rwanda Patriotic Front reminded Member States that “when the institution of the United Nations was created after the Second World War, one of its objectives was to see to it that what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany would never happen again.” In 1994, Rwanda was a non-permanent member of the Security Council, which allowed its “genocidal regime” to influence other members Council with its view of the situation, just as the Russian Federation’s presence on the Council today allows it “to spread lies almost daily”, he said.
In April 2006, in New York, on the docks by the Hudson River, a “state of the art ocean liner was launched”, he said, which was then “docked on the shores of Lake Geneva” and named the Human Rights Council. The adoption of the resolution establishing the Human Rights Council was the culmination of five months of consultations. The ocean liner is going towards icebergs, he said, and it might seem that it should have been named the Titanic instead of the Human Rights Council. “We need to take action today to save it from sinking,” he said, noting the situation in Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where “thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped and abducted and robbed by the Russian army”. This, he stressed, shows how far the Russian Federation has strayed from its initial aspirations in the human rights domain. This case is unique and today’s response is obvious, he said. The Russian Federation’s diplomatic note Wednesday stated that the collective effort to preserve the credibility of the Human Rights Council was considered as an approach to preserve “domination and total control in the world”. This is “the same perverted logic of the aggressor trying to present itself as a victim”, he said. If the Russian Federation is expelled from the Council, it is its own choice.
The draft resolution “L.4” is the result of the collective effort of a cross-regional group of two dozen States, with more than 50 Member States co-sponsoring it. He called upon all responsible Member States to support the draft. Addressing those who might opt to be bystanders on the vote and to abstain, he quoted Eli Wiesel’s words to President Bill Clinton in 1999: “Indifference elicits no response. Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning — it is an end. And indifference is always a friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor, never his victim whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten.” The genocide in Rwanda was largely a result of indifference, he said, noting that the United Nations did not respond to warnings in the Security Council and the General Assembly a year before the tragedy that is commemorated every year on 7 April.
Today, delegates will have the chance to prove that they are not indifferent bystanders, he said. “All you need to do is to press the ‘Yes’ button,” he said. “On the other hand, pressing ‘No’ means pulling a trigger and means a red dot on the screen. Red as the blood of the innocent lives lost. And this image of the red bloody dots on this screen will stay with you — and all of us — as long as memory does not fail us. Think about it. Thank you”.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the draft resolution under consideration has no relationship to the actual human rights situation on the ground, adding that it is an attempt by the United States to maintain its dominant position and an attempt at human rights colonialism in international relations. It is also an attempt to move those who wish to conduct an independent foreign policy to the periphery of international relations. There is a crack that has appeared in the human rights architecture that is decades in the making, he said, noting that the possible exclusion of the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council could be a dangerous precedent. As practice has shown, Western approaches in dealing with acute human rights problems in certain countries have not really been successful, he said, stressing that not a single conflict was resolved, but only exacerbated, mainly due to the use by Western countries of sanctions and military intervention.
The Russian Federation throughout its membership in the Commission on Human Rights and the Human Rights Council has consistently defended the principle of cooperation based on mutual respect and equal status, he said. Its priority has always been to strengthen constructive dialogue involving all interested sides in defending and promoting human rights. He rejected the untruthful allegations against the Russian Federation based on “staged events and widely circulated fakes”, calling on all Member States to really consider their decision and vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture.
The representative of Kazakhstan called on all parties to cease hostilities, stating that the humanitarian situation in Ukraine is dire and that his country has already sent it three planes carrying over 50 tons of goods. He noted, however, that adoption of the draft resolution currently before the Assembly will not contribute to the settlement of conflict. The negotiation process must not be undermined, and all fora must be used to resolve it, including the Human Rights Council. Recalling that membership in the Council can be suspended following the confirmation of gross violations of human rights, he said this requires the collection of unbiased data. Today’s vote should be preceded by an investigation under relevant international mechanisms. For those reasons, he affirmed that his delegation will vote against the draft resolution.
The representative of Venezuela said the promotion and protection of human rights must be addressed in a constructive manner, with dialogue and cooperation, and human rights should not be used to attack sovereign States. He expressed his regret that divisions today have increased among members of the United Nations, cautioning: “That is the wrong path.” Such a track may create consequences that will take generations to overcome and will impact the living conditions of vulnerable groups around the country, where people are already suffering due to the increased cost of food and transportation. Also warning about the start of a new arms race, he said the international community faces the danger of a conflict between world Powers “that will destroy mankind as we know it today”. The draft resolution before the Assembly is an example of the politicization of human rights. “Without the Russian Federation, there is no possible peace agreement in Europe,” he said, underscoring that the draft will push the world towards a more acute phase of the conflict.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea voiced concern that some countries continue to push confrontation and distrust, instead of prioritizing the easing of tensions and seeking a political and peaceful solution to the current crisis in Ukraine. He rejected any politically motivated initiative and lack of objectivity, impartiality and transparency, noting that reported atrocities against the civil population in Ukraine have not yet been officially verified or proven based on real fact or evidence. An independent investigation must be made, and substantive time and effort are required in that regard, he stressed, pointing out that some Member States are acting very recklessly for their political goals by submitting the draft resolution and adding that such political and unilateral action will not help solve the problem at all. Noting the efforts by the Russian Federation to address the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine, he said the draft resolution is another example of political confrontation aimed at tarnishing one Member State on the United Nations stage.
The representative of Iran underlined the need for a peaceful settlement to the conflict under international law, including international humanitarian law. Affirming that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States must be respected, he expressed concern over the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in and around Ukraine. Calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities by all parties and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid, he said the international community must support continued direct negotiations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The text under consideration is politically driven, he said, and his delegation opposes the exploitation of United Nations human rights machinery for political ends. Stating that the exploitation of paragraph 8 of General Assembly resolution A/RES/60/251 deepens confrontation and attenuates constructive dialogue between countries, he said his delegation will vote no on the draft resolution before the Assembly.
The representative of Syria condemned the politicization of human rights by some countries and the targeting of the Russian Federation on the pretext of dealing with humanitarian issues in Ukraine. He stressed the need to reject such politicization and underscored the importance of objectivity and non-discrimination in human rights issues. The coordinated Western move to denounce the Russian Federation has no relation to human rights in Ukraine or anywhere else. It is an effort by Western countries to impose their control over the rest of the world. The resolution establishing the Human Rights Council stressed that all human rights are interlinked and that they should be treated in a just and equitable way. However, some States use double standards when dealing with human rights issues, focusing on the situation in certain countries in a manner that serves their own political purposes while ignoring grave violations perpetrated in the full sight of the world. What the Palestinian people have been exposed to at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces is the best proof of that, he said, noting that his delegation will vote against the resolution.
The representative of Cuba said that only a few days after concluding a regular session of the Human Rights Council, that body was not even given an opportunity to state its position. Since the start of the negotiating process to create the new Council that would replace the Human Rights Commission, his country has opposed the clause on suspension of membership given the serious risk that it could be used by specific countries which favour double standards, selectivity and the politicization of human rights issues. “It is the Russian Federation today, but tomorrow it could be any of our countries, especially nations of the south, which do not support the interests of domination and which firmly defend their independence,” he stressed. Moreover, he pointed out that the suspension of the United States’ membership in the Council has not happened nor will it despite that country’s flagrant violations of human rights, adding that the suspension clause will not be used against the State which imposed against Cuba for over 60 years a criminal economic and financial blockade — the longest and a systematic violation of the human rights of an entire people. “It is ironic that the country which opposed the establishment of the Human Rights Council and requested a vote against the resolution establishing it is the same one that has conveniently now activated it, as it did in 2011, one of the most controversial clauses of that forum,” he said. The draft resolution under consideration today will establish a dangerous additional precedent, especially for the South, he said, explaining his country’s vote against the text.
The representative of Senegal said war is a failure of humanity, at all times and in all places. He expressed support for peace in Ukraine, also because “our countries are collateral victims” of the crisis with serious consequences for economies and populations. He noted Senegal’s President, in his capacity as the current Chairman of the African Union, called for respect for international law and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine — also the reason for his delegation’s support for Assembly resolution A/ES-11/L.2 on 24 March, and for Human Rights Council resolution A/HRC/49/1 of 4 March, on implementation of an international commission of inquiry into allegations of human rights violations in the country as a result of the war. Publication of its findings will give the international community a full view of the nature and extent of the alleged violations, and therefore the exact measure of the sanctions to be considered. However, today’s resolution decides on sanction measures without the Commission of Inquiry, thus anticipating the work expected of it, leading his delegation to abstain.
The representative of South Africa said that a cessation of hostilities must be the first step in the response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. “Wars end when dialogues begin, and wars endure when there is no dialogue”, he said. He welcomed efforts by Ukraine and the Russian Federation to hold talks without preconditions and expressed his hope that both parties will use diplomacy to de-escalate the situation. All parties have much to gain from a negotiated outcome and much to lose from unnecessary and violent conflict. The General Assembly must encourage mediation and dialogue and adopt outcomes leading to that end. “The international community cannot be indifferent to the killing and suffering of civilians,” he said, calling for an immediate opening of humanitarian corridors. On 4 March 2022, the Human Rights Council supported the establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine to investigate violations of international law and related crimes. The Commission has not yet commenced its work. In that regard, the tabling of the resolution today is premature and his delegation will abstain, he said.
The representative of Egypt said the draft resolution does not relate to the situation in Ukraine, the principle on the non-use of force in relations among nations. Expressing concern about the functions and mandates of United Nations bodies, he said the draft resolution undermines the Organization’s methods of work and threatens to undermine its credibility, leading to further negative repercussions on its ability to fulfil its role in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. Voicing concern about human rights violations and stressing the obligations of all States in that regard, he said serious human rights violations should be dealt with decisively and in accordance with United Nations’ rules and procedures. “The draft resolution is not being proposed at the right moment,” he said.
The representative of Brazil said the establishment of the Human Rights Council, in replacing the Commission on Human Rights, represented a hopeful step towards the strengthening and improvement of the global human rights system. During its relatively short existence, the Council has faced significant challenges, but it has sought to preserve the space for dialogue and negotiation, avoiding political selectivity and double standards. “Today, we may be taking a step into uncharted territory,” he said. Voicing deep concern about allegations of gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Ukraine — including the recent reports from Bucha — he said Brazil voted in favour of the Human Rights Council’s establishment of a commission of inquiry mandated to establish the facts about what may amount to violations and abuses of human rights or violations of humanitarian law in Ukraine. Calling on the parties to cooperate with it, he said in today’s vote in the General Assembly, Brazil has decided to abstain. “We believe that the Commission of Inquiry should be allowed to complete the independent investigation requested by the Council, so that responsibilities can be ascertained,” he said, reiterating the need for independence, objectivity and impartiality.
The representative of China said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States must be respected, along with their legitimate security concerns. Reports and images of civilian deaths in Bucha are disturbing and must be verified with accusations based on facts. Dialogue and negotiation are the only way out of the Ukraine crisis, he said, with the international community remaining rational and not setting up obstacles or resistance that add fuel to the fire. Indiscriminate sanctions without a bottom line have created complex new problems for the global post-pandemic recovery, with developing countries suffering while not being parties to the current conflict. Meanwhile, some other developed States provoke tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, which must be rejected. He voiced opposition to the politicization of human rights issues and to exerting pressure on other countries in their name. The draft resolution before the Assembly will deprive a State of its legitimate membership in the Human Rights Council — an issue that must be handled based on facts and truth. He stated the text was not drafted in an open manner, and a hasty move in the General Assembly forces countries to choose sides, setting new precedents. Therefore, his delegation will vote against the draft.
The representative of Mexico said that recent reports show the probable occurrence of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian international law. His country has backed the Secretary-General’s call to conduct impartial investigations to ensure effective accountability. At the Human Rights Council, Mexico voted for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate all alleged human rights violations. Mexico is following the inquiry of the International Criminal Court and supports its Prosecutor’s work to establish the facts. Mexico is also following the case brought before the International Court of Justice and reiterates its call for the immediate cessation of hostilities. These processes are under way but have not yet classified the situation in legal terms, he said, noting that they must be supported until they reach their ultimate conclusions. Whether the Russian Federation is a member of the Human Rights Council or not is not a factor that exempts it from obligations under international law. The central point is to bring to justice those responsible, not to suspend a State from membership in a subsidiary body of the General Assembly. Mexico will abstain from supporting the draft resolution. “Even in the midst of the war, all channels should be maintained for dialogue with the authorities of the Russian Federation,” he said.
The representative of Chile pointed out that, while his country supports multilateralism, membership in the Human Rights Council involves certain requirements, including conduct consistent with the protection and promotion of human rights everywhere. The suspension of the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council is a result of its unacceptable aggression and invasion against Ukraine, he said, explaining his country’s vote in favour of the resolution. He called on all parties to continue negotiations and urged an immediate and peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The representative of Belarus said his delegation is categorically against the draft under consideration by the Assembly, as it is motivated exclusively by political interests to demonize and exclude the Russian Federation. This move could have a long-term negative impact, even leading to the destruction of the United Nations as a whole and consolidating the destruction of upholding human rights under its auspices. It is important to focus not on short-term tasks influenced by emotions, but on long-term solutions. Stressing the draft proposed will not only not help resolve the situation in Ukraine, but increase risks for any negotiations, he called on Member State to reflect on the issue, and vote against it.
The General Assembly then adopted the draft resolution titled “Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council” (document A/ES-11/L.4) by a recorded vote of 93 in favour to 24 against, with 58 abstentions.
By the text, the Assembly decided to suspend the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation and to review the matter, as appropriate. It also decided to temporarily adjourn the Assembly’s eleventh emergency special session and to authorize the Assembly President to resume its meetings upon request from Member States.
The representative of India said his delegation abstained in the vote for reasons of both substance and process. Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine, India has stood for peace, dialogue and diplomacy. Voicing deep concern about the worsening situation and reiterating his call for an end to all hostilities, he declared: “When innocent human lives are at stake, diplomacy must prevail as the only viable option.” He condemned recent civilian killings in Bucha, calling for an independent investigation, adding that it is in the global community’s collective interest to work constructively — both inside the United Nations and outside — towards an early resolution to the conflict. All decisions should be taken with full respect for due process, he stressed, adding that this principle also applies to international organizations such as the United Nations.
The representative of Timor-Leste noted that today’s vote shows the clear position of States on upholding human rights in all circumstances and in all cases. “The dark period of our own history has taught us enough on the high cost of being victims of war,” he said. Calling for an effective ceasefire, he urged continuing dialogue and negotiations to stop the war and avoid further potentially catastrophic escalation. Timor-Leste calls for more diplomatic initiatives to help find a peaceful solution for all, he added, while emphasizing that all parties must ensure the safety and protection of all civilians.
The representative of Qatar said her delegation abstained during the vote. Her country’s position is anchored in the observance of the principles of the inadmissibility of the use of force and the importance of settling international conflicts and ensuring the territorial integrity of States. She stressed the importance of upholding international humanitarian law and commended the tireless efforts of the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations to respond to humanitarian needs. She reiterated the Secretary-General’s call to revert to the path of negotiations and for an immediate ceasefire, as well as calling for all parties to the conflict to exercise self-restraint and to use diplomacy and dialogue.
The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, reiterating his call for a peaceful political and diplomatic solution to the conflict, urged the international community to refrain from any action that could escalate tensions. He echoed expressions of grave concern about the recent reports and accusations of human rights and international humanitarian law violations and abuses. “We are of the view that such serious allegations must not be taken lightly and must be backed up by solid evidence and verified by an independent investigation mechanism by the United Nations, specifically the Human Rights Council’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry,” he said. As such, his delegation voted against the draft resolution before the Assembly in view of the need for a credible, neutral, impartial and independent assessment mechanism, before any action is taken.
The representative of Indonesia shared the international community’s deep concerns regarding the devastating human rights and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. “We do not take lightly reports of gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights, including recent report from Bucha,” he said, stressing that the Human Rights Council must remain seized of the matter and conduct a thorough and independent investigation. “In the meantime, we have to give the chance for the Commission to work in objective and transparent manners, and present its findings and reports,” he said, calling for due diligence and warning against prejudging that work. For those reasons, Indonesia abstained in the vote on the resolution, he said.
The representative of Panama said her county decided to vote in favour of the resolution, especially because Member States must abide by their commitments to human rights when elected to the Human Rights Council. In general, Panama does not support the separation of a Member State from membership in a multilateral forum, however its decision was taken given the flagrant, gross and systematic violations of human rights against civilians in Ukraine. Expressing hope that the Assembly’s action will be temporary, and that Member States will support the principles of respect for the highest human rights standards, she highlighted the need to guarantee universality in considering human rights issues, calling for dialogue and diplomacy to reach a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
The representative of Thailand said his delegation abstained on “L.4” because of the importance of transparent, impartial and inclusive processes. The decision to suspend any Member State from any body of the United Nations must not be taken lightly. Expressing condolences to the people of Ukraine and those who have lost loved ones, he further voiced concern over the escalation of the humanitarian crisis. Actions must be taken to address any atrocities committed, including in Bucha, and must be transparent and objective. Voicing support for the Independent Commission of Inquiry in concluding its investigation as soon as possible, in a transparent manner, he said: “Another life lost is another life too many.” Thailand continues to provide humanitarian support and affirms that political dialogue is the only way to end the dispute.
The representative of Viet Nam said he has followed with concern the situation in Ukraine and learned of recent reports of great loss of life among innocent civilians. He condemned all forms of attacks against civilians, in violation of international law. Recent information should be confirmed in a transparent manner with the parties concerned, he said, underscoring that the ongoing conflict — if not resolved peacefully — will continue to impact the entire world. The only way forward is to resume dialogue with a view to achieving long-term solutions. “There is no viable alternative,” he said. Deliberation and decisions taken by the General Assembly should be based on impartial information, in consultation with Member States. He expressed his hope that Member States will work together towards this end.
The representative of Cambodia said the isolation of a Member State through the suspension of its rights in a United Nations body will not help resolve the conflict in Ukraine, but will only trigger and intensify the situation. “At a fragile time for world peace, security and stability, the engagement among the Member States in all relevant United Nations bodies including the Human Rights Council is very important,” he stressed. Further underlining the need to create an environment conducive to diplomatic engagement, he said in view of all those concerns Cambodia voted to abstain on the draft resolution.
The representative of Uzbekistan said his country adheres to a balanced and neutral position on the current situation in Ukraine, expressing hope that the parties will find mutually acceptable ways to resolve the situation based on the principles and norms of international law. Explaining his country’s vote against the resolution, he said any decisions by the General Assembly to suspend a State’s right to membership in the Human Rights Council should be based on the outcome of a thorough investigation of the alleged human rights violations.
The representative of Malaysia, voicing deep concern over the worsening situation in Ukraine and reports of alleged human rights abuses and violations, agreed with other speakers that those who commit the latter must be held accountable. It is imperative that such atrocities be verified in an impartial and credible manner, he said, supporting the Secretary-General’s call to immediately commence an independent investigation. “Thus, Malaysia is of the view that a critical decision such as the suspension of a member of the Human Rights Council must not be made in haste and should not prejudge the outcome of such investigations,” he stressed, noting that Malaysia decided to abstain in the vote.
The representative of Singapore, noting that her delegation abstained in the vote, condemned the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and its continuing attacks on Ukrainian cities, civilians and civilian infrastructure in the strongest possible terms. Reiterating Singapore’s support for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, she recalled that her country supported and co-sponsored the recent draft resolutions titled “Aggression against Ukraine” and “Humanitarian consequences of the aggression against Ukraine”, as well as the Human Rights Council’s draft titled “Situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”. Against that backdrop, she underlined the need to spare no effort to protect civilians in Ukraine and to remain engaged in meaningful negotiations leading to a peaceful settlement.
The representative of Brunei Darussalam, condemning violations of the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of any country, reiterated the importance of upholding the principles of the rules-based framework and respect for international law. Emphasizing that constructive dialogue and engagement are essential to a peaceful solution, she said the suspension of a Member State is counter-productive and may further aggravate an already dire situation. Reiterating the importance of diplomacy, she called upon all parties directly involved to de-escalate tensions and settle all differences by peaceful means.
The representative of Kuwait said his delegation abstained on “L.4”, voicing support for all human rights bodies and their protection from politicization, as well as for dialogue and objectivity on those matters. Voicing concern over the images and information over recent days, revealing the extent of violations of international law and international humanitarian law against unarmed civilians, he appealed to the Secretary-General for a transparent international inquiry to identify perpetrators of the crimes. Citing the importance of guaranteeing humanitarian assistance, he welcomed efforts by United Nations bodies to end the hostilities. Since the beginning of the war and of military operations in Ukraine, his delegation has expressed its support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States and opposed the use or threat of force.
The representative of Kyrgyzstan said that the international community should wait for the results of all investigations on violations of human rights in Ukraine, including the Independent International Commission of Inquiry. “It is especially alarming that fraternal people are involved in this conflict,” she said, noting the importance of ensuring the full protection of civilians, as well as medical and humanitarian personnel. The text of the resolution on the suspension of the Russian Federation from the Human Rights Council is “characterized as politically driven”, she said, noting her delegation is in favour of the carrying out of an independent investigation. Any conflict must be resolved by diplomatic means, including by the creation of new formats and mechanisms, she said.
The representative of Algeria said there is no doubt that the images of Bucha and other Ukrainian cities are shocking and strongly condemnable, and the alleged crimes they imply are of the utmost gravity. “However, it is imperative to allow the existing United Nations mechanisms to investigate the facts on the ground in an impartial manner so that justice is done for all the victims,” he said. Such processes must take place far from any interference or pre-judgment, as a sine qua non condition necessary to establish the facts on the ground. Calling for respect for the principles of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity on which the Human Rights Council is founded, he said any attempt to suspend a country from a United Nations body is not conducive to promoting the virtues of multilateralism.
The representative of Peru said suspension in the future of the rights to membership of a Member State in the Human Rights Council should be invoked in any situations similar to the present case, where acts of use of force, violation of the territorial integrity of another State, and violations of human rights concur. In that context, he said the resolution does not prejudge the actions undertaken or may be undertaken by the various mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, adding that those inquiries must take place with independence, neutrality, and a focus on the rights of victims, their protection and fight against impunity. Moreover, the investigation of the Independent International Commission, which the Human Rights Council has established with a mandate to investigate alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law in Ukraine, should take place expediently, objectively and without discrimination, which is all the more urgent and imperative in investigating the massacre in Bucha.
The representative of Saudi Arabia said his delegation abstained on “L.4”, a measure that represents a serious precedent and adversely effects the function of multilateralism and international organizations. Condemning all violations of international humanitarian law in all forms wherever they occur, he called for the protection of civilians. However, the decision to suspend a Member State from the Human Rights Council is an escalatory step that aggravates an already tense situation, not only politicizing the work of the Council but marking a unilateral move that gives certain States more rights than others. Noting all States elected to the Council are entitled to exercise their full rights under A/RES/60/251, he said his delegation abstained because aggravating the situation will preclude a peaceful settlement for the region.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates said that civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict in Ukraine. Determining the facts on the ground is important to bring justice to victims and, in the long term, to allow communities to reconcile and build sustainable peace. At the Human Rights Council, her delegation voted for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate all violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The members of the Commission of Inquiry were appointed on 30 March and their investigations have only just begun. Due process demands that any investigative mechanisms be allowed to complete their work, she said, noting that her delegation abstained in the vote so that any decision made is based on due process. The organizations that make up the international system were not established to be “a club for the like-minded”, she stressed. Spaces to talk to each other in the international arena must be preserved, she said, noting “that idea is in the foundational DNA of this Organization”.
The representative of Kiribati, explaining his country’s vote in favour of the resolution, recalled the images of hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings killed in Ukraine over the past 42 days. Joining calls for a speedy end to the conflict through friendly and diplomatic dialogue between the parties, he said it is a wise and civilized practice of the Commonwealth of Nations to encourage its members to be loyal and faithful to its codes of conduct. The codes require all Commonwealth members to respect the rule of law, good governance, and the rights and freedoms of persons, and to deter violations through suspension of any defaulting member, while at the same time allowing time and space for a suspended member to reform its conduct. That practice has worked well for the Commonwealth for decades, he said, noting that it could also work well for the United Nations with respect to any Member State seen by an overwhelming majority to have seriously digressed from codes of conduct for the Organization’s membership.
Statements after Adoption
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said the resolution adopted is an illegitimate and politically motivated step to punish a Member State conducting an independent and domestic foreign policy. He noted his delegation made the decision to suspend its membership on the Human Rights Council, on 7 April, before the end of its term, as the Council is intended for developing a depoliticized intergovernmental dialogue on the human rights agenda. Unfortunately, that body is monopolized by one group of States for their short-term gain — States which have for years been directly involved in blatant violations of human rights or abetting the same. They will not sacrifice short-term political interests, he stated, with such actions violating the mandate of the Council and undermining trust in that body. The Russian Federation cannot remain a member of an international mechanism that enables the will of those States, which have resorted to open blackmail of sovereign States in pushing through their vote. He stressed that his delegation’s decision to suspend its membership before the end of its term does not mean it will stop contributing to constructive dialogue on human rights.
OLOF SKOOG, Head of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, emphasized that the scale and gravity of the Russian Federation’s violations of international law call for a strong, united international response. The European Union supports all measures to ensure accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Ukraine by Russian armed forces, he said, stressing that the perpetrators of war crimes and other serious violations, as well as the responsible Government officials and military leaders, will be held accountable. Noting that the Russian Federation has violated the criteria for membership of the Human Right Council through its actions in Ukraine, he stressed the necessity if its suspension in order to uphold the Council’s integrity, the General Assembly’s authority and the credibility of the United Nations human rights system. The Assembly’s rare decision today will help to prevent and discourage more violations, he said, pointing out that it is the third time in a month that it has adopted a resolution on Ukraine by a clear majority, while the Security Council remains unable to act.
YOKA BRANDT (Netherlands), speaking also on behalf of Belgium and Luxembourg and associating herself with the European Union, condemned the unprovoked war of aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine. Expressing horror over the reports of atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in currently and formerly occupied territories of Ukraine, she said the images and reports from places like Bucha, Staryi Bykiv, Mariupol and Hostomel show a complete disregard for human rights and dignity of civilians. Noting the personal testimonies of rape and sexual violence that are emerging, she stressed that those actions are unacceptable for any United Nations member, and especially for a member of the Human Rights Council. “Holding a seat in the Human Rights Council is not ‘a free ride’”, she said. “Members sign up to a heightened level of public scrutiny and commit to engage with the Council in a spirit of dialogue, cooperation and self-reflection, grounded in a desire to use their membership to strengthen the enjoyment of human rights at home and abroad… With its actions in Ukraine, the Russian Federation is failing [in] its responsibilities as a member of the Human Rights Council.”
Turning to the credibility of the United Nations, she pointed out that its integrity could indeed be at stake if Member States allow the Russian Federation to commit those atrocities without consequences. Moreover, all efforts must be made to ensure there are independent and effective investigations into what happened in Bucha and other places to ensure truth, justice and accountability, as well as reparations and remedy for victims and their families. Affirming support for the Human Rights Council’s creation of an independent international commission of inquiry, she said the International Criminal Court’s investigation of alleged crimes that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide is complementary to the investigations undertaken by the Prosecutor-General of Ukraine. The perpetrators of those crimes are being watched and evidence is being compiled with a view to their prosecution, she said, stressing that the Russian Federation needs to immediately cease hostilities, withdraw its troops from Ukraine and fully respect international humanitarian and human rights law.
The representative of the United Kingdom, taking the floor on a point of order, said he wished to seek urgent clarification from the delegation of the Russian Federation as to what precisely it said in its statement. “This General Assembly voted just a few moments ago to suspend them from the Human Rights Council and that is now done,” he said. But it seemed it was suggesting that it was also withdrawing from the Human Rights Council, which has a different effect. “Now, setting aside the fact that that sounds like someone being fired tendering their resignation,” he said, asking the Russian Federation to be precise on this point: “Will they be sending a note verbale to Member States and to the relevant authorities indicating their full and formal withdrawal from the Human Rights Council for the remainder of their term?” He said that would have a different effect on the next actions that need to be taken and the status of the Russian Federation.
The representative of the Russian Federation said he would like to explain that the question that was just asked does not refer to a point of order but refers to the substantive part of his delegation’s statement. “I think we made a very clear statement,” he said.
The representative of France said that she did not have a point of order, but maybe the interpreters should clarify, as there might be divergence between French and English versions. She said she was also wondering “exactly what was the statement of the Russian Federation?”
RYTIS PAULAUSKAS (Lithuania), speaking on behalf of the Baltic States and associating himself with the European Union, welcomed today’s adoption and said the Assembly has thus preserved the moral integrity of the Human Rights Council. “There is no place for the aggressor State in the United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world,” he said, citing gruesome reports verified by the Organization’s officials as well as civil society members and journalists on the ground. Meanwhile, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented the Russian Federation’s use of cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times and the use of arbitrary detention and possible enforced disappearance of 22 journalists and civil society members in Kyiv, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia. Voicing the Baltic States’ full solidarity with the Ukrainian people, he emphasized that “there will be no impunity” and international justice will be done.
MARTIN BILLE HERMANN (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said they voted in favour of today’s resolution to suspend the Russian Federation’s rights of membership in the Human Rights Council — “not an easy decision”. Voicing support for that organ’s purpose as an inclusive forum for dialogue, he said membership therein carries the responsibility to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights. Stressing that the Russian Federation’s unprovoked, unjustified and unlawful attack on Ukraine constitutes a gross violation of international law and the United Nations Charter and has had a catastrophic impact on Ukraine, in particular on civilians, he welcomed the establishment by the Human Rights Council of a Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine as well as the International Criminal Court’s opening of an investigation into the situation. “In the meantime, the […] Human Rights Council should not, and will not, be tainted by the full-fledged membership of a State accused of some of the most horrific war crimes seen in Europe since the end of World War II,” he said.
KAHA IMNADZE (Georgia), associating himself with the European Union, said the scenes depicting the massacre and brutal atrocities against innocent civilians in Bucha are devastating, stressing that there must be no impunity for any violation of humanitarian law and human rights law. The international community must ensure that justice is served for the crimes committed through all available international legal mechanisms, he said, adding that membership in the Human Rights Council comes with the responsibility to promote and protect human rights to the highest standards. However, the international community continues to witness the Russian Federation’s full disregard for rules-based order and international human rights law and for the Council’s mandate. Thus, his delegation voted in favour of the resolution and calls on Member States to continue to stand up for the principles of the Charter and international law.
KRZYSZTOF MARIA SZCZERSKI (Poland) said a country that deliberately kills civilians on a massive scale cannot be an active Human Rights Council member. A country that has held international law in total disregard cannot participate in making new standards in this area. The suspension of the Russian Federation’s membership is an initiative that does not have many precedents, he pointed out. Yet, the situation in Ukraine is tragically unique: A permanent member of the Security Council and a Human Rights Council member initiates an unprovoked and unjustified invasion against its neighbouring country and brutally conducts a war, deliberately attacking the civilian population. The creators of the United Nations designed it to prevent future generations from the scourge of war. The further creation of the Human Rights Council was meant to contribute to this goal. It is imperative to safeguard the United Nations achievements for the next generations and to protect the Organization’s credibility. For these reasons, Poland has supported the resolution just adopted, he explained.
JAKUB KULHÁNEK (Czech Republic), associating himself with the European Union, said that a permanent member of the Security Council that wages an unprovoked and unjustified war against its neighbour, and deliberately commits war crimes, has no place on the Human Right Council. In addition to the human rights situation inside the Russian Federation, the resolution is first and foremost about the unprecedented and flagrant violation of the Charter, international law, international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions, he emphasized. The suspension of the Russian Federation’s membership is a necessary and the only logical step to uphold the integrity of the Human Right Council, he said, adding that the Assembly’s rare decision today sends a strong signal to the victims of inhuman violence.
MAURIZIO MASSARI (Italy), associating himself with the European Union, pointed to the horrifying images of civilians lying dead in the streets or in improvised mass graves in Bucha, and the emerging and disturbing testimony about rape and sexual violence by Russian troops against women, children and older persons. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for an independent investigation to guarantee effective accountability, he said the Russian Federation’s suspension from the Human Rights Council was necessary to uphold that body’s integrity, reaffirm the General Assembly’s authority, and send the clear message that gross and systematic violations of human rights cannot be tolerated anywhere in the world. Emphasizing the need for accountability on the part of individual perpetrators of violations and to avoid any form of impunity, Italy calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of Russian military forces and a return to negotiations.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said the last two weeks have seen no let-up in the horrors unfolding in Ukraine. Expressing shock and outrage over the reports and images emerging from Bucha and other parts of the country, which are evidence of war crimes, she said the Russian Federation’s methods of warfare illustrate a systematic disregard for international humanitarian law — in particular the targeting of civilian populations — as it has carried out before in Syria. Accountability remains key. Voicing support for the efforts under way to gather and preserve evidence, welcoming the independent investigation by the International Criminal Court and looking forward to the swift operationalization of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, she nevertheless said the continued violations being committed by the Russian Federation abundantly meet the criteria needed for suspension in the latter organ’s membership. As such, Liechtenstein voted in favour of, and co-sponsored, the draft resolution before the Assembly today.
JAMES PAUL ROSCOE (United Kingdom) said the actions of the Russian Federation in Ukraine far fall short of standards of membership in the Human Rights Council, with horrific images of civilians in Bucha deliberatively killed in regions from which that State’s forces have recently withdrawn. Quoting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, he said it was difficult to find a war crime that the Russian Federation did not commit in Bucha, with evidence of gross and systematic violations of human rights — the threshold for suspension from the Council. Today’s vote delivers another message to President Vladimir Putin that those who stand by him or speak in his name must stop killing innocent civilians and end this war now. Following suspension from the Council, the Russian Federation declared its withdrawal, which will trigger a byelection; he thus welcomed the opportunity for a Member State from that region who will protect human rights to ultimately take the seat. Today is a victory for human rights and the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, he stated.
AMATLAIN ELIZABETH KABUA (Marshall Islands) recalled that on 4 March, his country, as a Human Rights Council member, joined 31 others to vote in favour of resolution HRC/49/L1, regarding the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from Russian aggression. All the events which have happened since that vote have only served to confirm the Council’s firm conclusion one month ago. Her country’s vote today on Assembly resolution ES-11/L.4 is consistent with its vote at the Human Rights Council. “It is not an action taken lightly,” she said. The United Nations should have learned lessons about the importance of timely reaction in crisis situations. Objective information, including from the United Nations system, provides the necessary specificity for a political assessment to suspend the Russian Federation’s membership in the Human Rights Council and to keep this outcome under appropriate review.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), associating himself with the European Union, said a country such as the Russian Federation which so clearly violates the right to life through a brutal aggression against another State “cannot and should not sit on the Human Rights Council — not after we have seen pictures from Bucha, Irpin, Borodyanka, Mariupol and so many other places of massacres in Ukraine”. Regrettably, the Security Council’s rules of procedure do not allow for the suspension of Moscow’s permanent membership nor its veto right, though they are in the current situation both inappropriate and counter-productive for the protection of international peace and security, he said
AGUSTÍN SANTOS MARAVER (Spain), associating himself with the European Union, stressed that “one cannot be jury and party, be a full member of the Human Rights Council and an alleged violator of those same rights”. The same countries that abstained or voted against resolution 49/1 of the Human Rights Council, establishing the Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Ukraine, today in turn called for a vote or an abstention on the current resolution, he said, stating that the Commission had not been able to finalize its work. While investigative processes are taking place, respect for the Charter must be exercised as Member States have done, by suspending the aggressor from the Human Rights Council through a General Assembly decision. Expressing hope that the Russian Federation will heed the international clamour against its invasion, he called for an immediate ceasefire, negotiations towards peace, and the recovery of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, affirming his country’s solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
MICHAL MLYNÁR (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union, welcomed the adoption of “L.4”, stating the consequences of the unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, in blatant violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, are unprecedented and outrageous. According to OHCHR, at least 1,480 civilians have been killed and 2,195 injured between 24 February and 4 April 2022. “The images from Bucha the world saw last weekend have reached the bottom of living hell, following the Russian decision to start this senseless war,” he said. Allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian forces, including gang rape and rapes in front of children, do not deserve any further comment. “The face of Russia will be tarnished for a very long time”, he stressed. Such disgraceful behaviour is absolutely incompatible with membership in the Human Rights Council, and his delegation welcomes the swift nomination of highly qualified members to the Commission of Inquiry.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Russian Federation has bombed civilian populations and installations, schools and hospitals, with unbearable images of the atrocities committed in Bucha and other towns in northern Ukraine, possibly constituting war crimes. The Russian army continues to deny the humanity of thousands of Ukrainian men and women, and “it is time for this horror to end”, he said. After the international community denounced the aggression on 2 March, and adopted “L.2” on 24 March, the Russian Federation’s only response has been scorn, escalation of the war and violation of international humanitarian law — actions which cannot remain unpunished. By adopting “L.4” today, the Assembly sends a clear message that the Russian Federation’s actions “are contrary to all the values that we have defended since the establishment of the United Nations” and that it must be held to account. He welcomed the courageous decision by the international community to suspend the country, once again calling on it to heed reason and stop the war.
ANTJE LEENDERTSE (Germany) said the thresholds to exclude a Member State from the Human Rights Council are “gross and systematic human rights violations”. The Russian Federation has obviously committed — and continues to commit — such violations. And it is worth noting that it is not committing these violations on its soil, but on the territory of a sovereign and independent neighbouring country. Germany has already contributed €3.5 million to OHCHR’s Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, he said, encouraging delegates to read its latest report. Berlin just decided to double its contribution to OHCHR to €1 million in 2022. Welcoming the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry by the Human Rights Council, she said her country will provide another €1 million and second specialists in support of the International Criminal Court investigation.
BOŠTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union, said a member of the Human Rights Council has an inherent duty to uphold the integrity of that subsidiary body and the authority of the General Assembly, as well as make every effort to prevent gross and systematic violations and ensure accountability for perpetrators. Noting images and reports of atrocities and war crimes committed by Russian armed forces in several Ukrainian towns, he called for an international independent investigation and expressed support for all measures to ensure that perpetrators — including Government officials and military leaders — are held accountable for any violations of international law and international humanitarian law. Welcoming the adoption of the resolution, he called on the Russian Federation to immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and premeditated war against its neighbour displays contempt for its United Nations commitments, with the situation laying bare the Russian military’s most vicious disregard for human life — killing civilians, bombing hospitals and maternity wards. “None of these facts are in dispute,” he said. The Russian Federation has invaded Ukraine, which existed for many years under the rule of the Soviet empire, and this terrible example of the empire striking back can only be seen as an example of modern-day colonialism. The update on Wednesday by the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine reported 3,776 civilian casualties and 1,563 killed — not simply numbers, but evidence of President Putin’s thirst for power. The international community has seen the horrific images from Bucha and Irpin, of women subjugated to sexual violence and civilians killed — which are possible war crimes, he said, stressing the Russian Federation has made it impossible to be indifferent or turn away. The international community has sent a strong message with today’s vote, he said. The Russian Federation’s withdrawal from the Council does not negate suspension, and evil must not prevail.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), noting his delegation’s co-sponsorship of the resolution, said he is appalled by the recent revelation of atrocities against innocent civilians resulting from the Russian Federation’s unprovoked and unlawful aggression against Ukraine. “It is utterly inappropriate that a Member State that caused such a dire calamity remains on the Human Rights Council,” he said, emphasizing that the mass killing of innocent civilians is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. “It is deeply disappointing that we have to act in this way, but this is the inevitable consequence of Russia’s choice.”
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) said the images emerging from Bucha make clear that the Russian Federation has committed egregious war crimes, including horrific acts such as executing and raping civilians. Australia voted in support of today’s resolution because being a voting member of the Human Rights Council is not consistent with invading a country and slaughtering its civilians. “These are two things we already know have happened — apart from Russia, no country is suggesting that there has not been an invasion, that there has not been slaughter,” he said, adding that the second fact is that the cause of such suffering is Moscow’s invasion. As such, the Russian Federation should be suspended in real time from the Human Rights Council until it withdraws its forces. While some have argued that the world should wait until the various investigative processes and inquiries have been undertaken — and they will be undertaken — “that’s not what suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council is about”. Instead, it is about making clear that membership in that organ is inconsistent with Moscow’s actions. “Russia needs to hear this message now and understand that its actions will have consequences,” he stressed.
EDUARDO MANUEL DA FONSECA FERNANDES RAMOS (Portugal), associating himself with the European Union, emphasized that the Russian Federation must immediately cease hostilities as well as violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Pointing to the images of civilians killed in Bucha, he reiterated the need for a full investigation of any serious violations of international law and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. He reaffirmed his delegation’s support for the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine established by the Human Rights Council, emphasizing that its members must strictly adhere to and uphold the highest standards in promoting and protecting all human rights for all. Portugal welcomes the resolution adopted today in light of events in Bucha and other cities during the aggression against Ukraine, he said.
CAROLYN SCHWALGER (New Zealand) said Russia is violating international humanitarian law every day the conflict in Ukraine continues. Pointing to the horrific reports of killings and other atrocities in Bucha and elsewhere, she said the Russian Federation has flagrantly and deliberately chosen to disregard its responsibilities as a member of the Human Rights Council and no longer deserves a seat at that table. Emphasizing the need to ensure that country is held accountable for its actions, she noted that New Zealand, alongside 41 other countries, has already referred atrocities in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court and supports all relevant investigations.
COLLEN V. KELAPILE (Botswana), condemning attacks and all manner of violations of international humanitarian law, said his delegation is dismayed by the horrifying images of civilians killed in Bucha and joins the calls for an independent investigation that will result in full accountability on the part of those responsible. Welcoming the Human Rights Council’s active involvement in monitoring the human rights situation in Ukraine, he added that Botswana is confident there will be an objective appraisal of the human rights situation in that country and that the Human Rights Council will advise the General Assembly in a manner that will protect the integrity of the United Nations system.
ION JINGA (Romania) noted the profoundly troubling reports of atrocities being committed against men, women and children in Bucha and elsewhere in Ukraine. Such acts are not the actions of a rogue soldier or two, but rather part of a deeply troubling pattern, he said. The Russian authorities are responsible for atrocities that occurred while they had effective control of the areas concerned. The brutal aggression being carried out against Ukraine clearly demonstrates that the Russian Federation has violated its commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council. Therefore, it does not belong to this community, whose main aim is to protect human rights, he affirmed.
ALEXANDER MARSCHIK (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, said it is vital that the Assembly live up to its responsibilities. While noting the importance of continued dialogue between members of the international community, he declared: “At the same time, however, we are convinced that there is no other way than to take a firm stand and to take decisive action on situations that clearly constitute a blatant violation of international law and a violation of the Charter of the United Nations.” What has been witnessed since the first days of the Russian aggression in Ukraine far surmounts the threshold needed for suspension of the rights of membership in the Human Rights Council. Echoing other speakers’ calls for accountability and support for the Commission of Inquiry, he said Austria nevertheless voted in favour of today’s resolution as the international community must take action.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), associating himself with the European Union, described the images emerging from Bucha and other towns in the Kyiv region as “truly horrifying”. The Russian Federation authorities are responsible for the atrocities being witnessed, committed while they had effective control of the area. “They are therefore subject to the international law of occupation,” she said, adding that the Russian aggression constitutes a flagrant violation of the United Nations Charter. As a member of the Human Rights Council, the Russian Federation is obligated to uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, but its unlawful actions in Ukraine have clearly made a mockery of that responsibility and severely undermine the integrity of the organ itself. Stressing that it is therefore unacceptable for Moscow to continue to hold its seat, she welcomed the Assembly’s decision to suspend it its membership.
NOA FURMAN (Israel) said her delegation voted in favour of the resolution, but that should not be taken as tacit approval of the Human Rights Council, which has for too long lacked credibility and discriminated against one State — the only Jewish one. The Council is the clearest example of bias in the United Nations system, passing more resolutions targeting Israel than on Syria, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea combined. Israel is the only country with a standing agenda item — item 7 — ensuring that it is singled out in every meeting. In 2021, the United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel, did not even mention Hamas, she noted — an example of the Council’s absurdity. In 2006, Member States in the Assembly had hoped to replace the Council with something better, but they failed. Israel is assisting Ukraine, she said, expressing hope for the safety of all civilians and a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) said the United Nations is in crisis. The very purposes of maintaining international peace and security, as well as the territorial integrity of Member States, have been violated. Over the last few weeks, there has been unbearable suffering in Ukraine. Thousands have been killed and millions displaced. Civilian infrastructure has been damaged and destroyed. All of this can only be stopped with the end of the war itself. He called for the immediate cessation of aggression and attacks against Ukraine, describing the most recent videos coming from Bucha and elsewhere as “horrific”. It is clear that atrocities are being committed against Ukrainian citizens. The appalling killings of civilians must be independently investigated, and perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to justice. The images of Bucha are particularly relatable to the people of Myanmar, who have been experiencing massacre after massacre and atrocities by the illegal military junta against its own people.
NICOLA TEGONI, observer for the Sovereign Order of Malta, said that last year, the Human Rights Council permitted 900 interventions from permanent observers, non-governmental organizations and civil societies in its deliberations — many of those contributions focusing on issues that have been highlighted by the situation in Ukraine, including human trafficking, the care and welfare of refugees, internally displaced civilian populations and the plight of migrants. He recalled that a record 82 million innocent civilians have, in recent years, been uprooted by crisis, while some 41 million people in 43 countries are on the brink of famine. He urged Member States, while deciding on weighty matters in the resolution, not to forget the raison d’être of the Assembly: ensuring a peaceful and secure world. “Let not our voices drown out the call for peace and security heard in the anguished tones and cries of ordinary people, homeless, injured and suffering, desperate to return to ordinary lives, within the secure sovereignty of their own borders,” he said.
Ms. SOUREK, observer for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, said the war of aggression waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine will certainly not stop as a result of Moscow’s membership suspension in the Human Right Council. Its continued presence would ultimately deliver a fatal blow to the already weakened credibility of this body. He expressed support for today’s decision and for a thorough revision of the criteria for States to be represented there. Allowing the Russian Federation and other authoritarian Governments to use the Human Rights Council as a platform to whitewash their dismal performance on human rights is a betrayal of United Nations principles and of the memory of the victims in Bucha. “Many of these victims will have no other grave but our memory,” he stressed.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that despite the Russian Federation’s attempt to spread disinformation, the world has seen the images from Bucha of lifeless bodies in the street, some apparently summarily executed with their hands tied behind their backs. There have been credible reports of landmines and booby traps left behind after the Russian Federation failed in its objectives and troops withdrew. On Wednesday, she saw an Associated Press photograph taken in Kyiv of a six-year-old boy standing in a garden next to his mother’s grave. One day, Ukraine’s infrastructure will be rebuilt, but there is no way to rebuild the lives destroyed by the Russian Federation. She said she was in Republic of Moldova and Romania a few days ago and met with women and children who shared stories of the violence committed by the Russian Federation. Despite everything they have been through, they are determined to return to a peaceful Ukraine. The Russian Federation must be held accountable, she said, noting that the world is looking to the United Nations and asking if it is prepared to meet this moment. “They are wondering if we are a platform for propaganda,” she said, or whether the Organization is prepared to live up to the ideals enshrined in the Charter. The United Nations took a step in the right direction by ensuring that violators of human rights will not be able to occupy a position of leadership on human rights, she said.
*For information media. Not an official record.For information media. Not an official record.