Russia booted out of the UN Human Rights Council. What’s next?

The UN Security Council chamber

Following the General Assembly declaring the annexation of Ukrainian illegal, Russia’s presence on the UN Security Council has officially lost its legal basis.

According to its charter, the UN was created to maintain international peace and security, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, and support sustainable development. Each of these is an honourable goal that is sometimes brought to fruition in parts of the world.

193 countries around the globe are members of the United Nations and among those are the P5 (permanent Security Council Members) chosen because of their importance in the aftermath of WWII. Each one of these countries is part of the UN because they claim to believe in what this organisation stands for.

When we take time to look at what is happening in the world, we are once again reminded that maintaining international peace and security is a never-ending aspiration.

Although according to the UN charter there is no mechanism to remove a permanent member from the security council, the repeated violations of the Russian Federation are proof that its presence on the UN Security Council has already lost its legal basis.

Vote to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council
The UN General Assembly votes to suspend Russia’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council. Vote results: 93 in favour, 58 abstained and 24 against.

On October 12, 2022, during the United Nations General Assembly, 143 states voted in favour of calling Russia’s proclaimed annexation of four Ukrainian regions illegal. Only four other countries sided with Russia by voting against it, while 35, including China, India and South Africa abstained. Having vetoed a similar resolution in September, Russia called this one heavily politicised.

The General Assembly vote comes after the body’s resolution in April, calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council.

After the adoption of the resolution, Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative Kuzmin announced that Russia had decided to leave the Council before the end of its term.

One may ask what reasons may have caused some countries to abstain from taking a stand in the face of such human rights violations; or Belarus, Syria, Nicaragua and North Korea to vote for such a clear violation of the UN charter?

Clearly, their perceived national interests are more important to them than any of the noble founding principles of the organisation.

The question remains as to why the process of removing Russia from the UN Security Council is such an arduous chore for an organisation whose pledge is to protect human rights and maintain international peace and security.

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