In response to “the images of Boutcha”, Russia could be “suspended” from the UN Human Rights Council. In any case, this is what the United States and the United Kingdom are asking for, after the discovery of numerous corpses of civilians in this Ukrainian city.
This suspension could be the subject of a vote of the General Assembly of the United Nations as early as this Thursday, according to Washington. On Twitter, the United States Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said that “we cannot allow a member state that is undermining all the principles that we hold dear to participate in the Council human rights”.
The diplomat also addressed the 140 countries out of the 193 in the UN which have “already voted to condemn” the Russian invasion of Ukraine in a resolution of the General Assembly at the beginning of March, urging them to ” move from words to deeds”.
— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) April 4, 2022
“Russia cannot be allowed to use its seat on the Council as a propaganda tool to suggest that it has a legitimate concern about human rights […] In close coordination with Ukraine and other UN member states and partners, the United States will work to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council,” continued Linda Thomas- Greenfield.
During an interview with the American radio NPR, the diplomat specified that the American objective was to proceed to the vote “as quickly as possible – this week and possibly as early as Thursday”.
The United Kingdom supported this approach since the head of British diplomacy, Liz Truss, affirmed that “Russia cannot remain a member of the UN Human Rights Council” because of a “strong suspicion of war crimes” and reports of “mass graves and atrocious killings in Boutcha”.
“This is unheard of”
During a press conference, the Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, judged this American announcement “incredible”. “What the West is trying to do with Russia, trying to exclude it from the multilateral forums that we have in the world (…) is unheard of, he reacted. It will not facilitate or encourage or help what is happening between Russians and Ukrainians in the peace talks”.
Asked about the position of Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the UN, about such a suspension, his deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq, replied that “it would be up to member states to decide”. He nevertheless added: “What worries here is the precedent created by this situation”, without further specifying his thinking.
Such a suspension can only be decided by the General Assembly of the United Nations, during a vote by acclamation or by a two-thirds majority of the Member States present who would vote for or against. Abstentions are not taken into account in this required majority, which the United States and the United Kingdom believe they can obtain.
In March 2011, the UN General Assembly approved by acclamation Libya’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. But it was not then a permanent member of the Security Council, as is the case with Russia.