The UN General Assembly has a responsibility to act to suspend Russia's rights of membership of the Human Rights Council, both to uphold the Council's institutional integrity and to avoid entrenching impunity for gross and systematic human rights violations.
Update: We did it! On Thursday 7 April, a two-thirds majority of States at the United Nations General Assembly voted in favour of suspending Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council.
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and initiated an illegal war of aggression. This has been associated with massive human rights violations. This calls into question Russia’s continued membership and voting rights in the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), the body charged with upholding human rights globally. ISHR and partners are calling on the UN General Assembly to uphold the integrity of the HRC as a body and suspend Russia’s membership.
"Russia has started a war against Ukraine which has destroyed the international system of peace and security. This war causes daily pain, suffering and death to civilians, as Russia commits war crimes as a method of warfare. Against this background, Russia's participation in the Human Rights Council looks like an evil mockery and undermines the trust of people around the world in the UN. In addition, it legitimises Russia's actions and makes those States that do not take action to suspend Russia’s HRC membership tacit accomplices in the destruction of human rights and the rule of law."Oleksandra Matviychuk, Chair of the Ukraine Center for Civil Liberties and recipient of the 2016 OSCE Democracy Defender Award
There is a growing international concern that Russia’s war with Ukraine is undermining international standards and core civilian protection norms and human rights as well as the multilateral institutions tasked with upholding it. This is not only the case with the UN Security Council where Russia is a permanent member and has exercised its veto to block censure on the conflict, but it is also affecting other bodies of the UN where Russia is an active member, notably the HRC which has recently appointed an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate and promote accountability for human rights violations and abuses associated with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.
What do we want?
Russia is responsible for widespread and systematic human rights violations. We want the General Assembly of the United Nations to suspend Russia’s membership to the Human Rights Council, as envisaged by OP8 of General Assembly resolution 60/251. It is difficult to conceive of a more clear cut case for suspension than a member that flagrantly violates the UN Charter, aggressively invades a sovereign State, and perpetrates massive human rights violations, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Russia’s membership is a stain on the Council’s institutional integrity.
We call on the General Assembly to act urgently to suspend Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council for 4 key reasons:
- Russia is committing gross and systematic human rights violations, including atrocity crimes, right now
- Russia’s continued membership undermines the institutional integrity of the HRC and brings it into disrepute. This could spell the Council’s demise.
- Russia’s continued HRC membership undermines the authority of the UN General Assembly, rendering the membership and suspension criteria in GA Res 60/251 devoid of meaning.
- To maintain Russia’s membership privileges is to accept and entrench impunity for gross and systematic violations perpetrated by a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Whatever has happened in the past, this makes accountability for powerful States in the future near impossible.
How do we achieve this?
- To reach our goal we need at least 2/3 of UN General Assembly member States to vote for Russia’s suspension. We are advocating, meeting with and writing to countries sitting at the General Assembly in order to convince them that this suspension is necessary and that they should table and support – together with States across all the regions of the globe – a suspension resolution.
- We support Ukrainian human rights defenders to engage directly with UN member States in face-to-face or video meetings to share their analysis of the ongoing human rights situation and call on them to support a suspension resolution.
- We make sure our voice is loud. We work in coalition with others. On 8 March, a diverse coalition of 50 NGOs from all regions of the world called on the UN General Assembly to suspend Russia’s rights of membership of the HRC.
- We make sure our message is clear and that it is heard. We speak with the media so they replicate our calls and key messages. We relay them on social media with our larger group of civil society allies.
"In close coordination with Ukraine, European countries and other partners at the UN, we are going to seek Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council".Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador to the UN, 4 April 2022