Moscow’s suspension from U.N. Human Rights Council

  • IASbaba
  • April 9, 2022
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Moscow’s suspension from U.N. Human Rights Council

Context: Russia’s membership to the Human Rights Council (HRC), to which it was elected in 2020, was suspended recently after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted, 93 to 24, with 58 abstentions, including India, to adopt a resolution suspending Moscow from the UN body.

  • The resolution was proposed by a group of countries that included Ukraine, the U.S., the EU, several Latin American countries and required a two-thirds majority of those present and voting for adoption.
  • Abstentions do not count in the tally of those ‘present and voting’. India abstained for reasons of “substance and process”.
  • The only time a member state was suspended from the Geneva-based body was Libya in 2011.
  • The HRC is a UN body, comprising 47 states, that describes itself as “responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe”. Countries are elected for three-year terms.

What was the reason given and Russia’s response?

  • Russia has faced immense criticism after bodies were found in the streets of Bucha, a northern Ukrainian town, from where Russian troops withdrew
  • According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 1,611 civilians have been killed and 2,227 injured in Ukraine since the war began.
  • Russia claims it to be “staged events and fakes”.

What is the significance of the suspension?

  • When Russia began the invasion, President Vladimir Putin had said the main objectives of what he called the “special military operation” were the “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine.
  • Considering the three-front war Russia launched, it was evident that Moscow wanted to meet its real objectives quickly. But Ukraine’s fierce resistance, especially in the north, has changed the course of the conflict, which now looks like a war of attrition, focusing on Ukraine’s east.
  • However, Russia cannot evade its responsibility for these losses.
  • While the truth should be established in an independent UN-monitored probe, there is no doubt that civilians were targeted.

What lies ahead?

  • Now, both Ukraine and Russia are in difficult situations. The Ukrainians, with military and financial aid from the West, have pushed back in the north, but lost territories in the east and the south.
  • Given the power imbalance, it is unlikely that Ukraine can regain the lost territories.
  • Russia now seems to have been bogged down in the battlefield, with international criticism mounting on its war conduct
  • What is in the best interest of all parties is a cessation of hostilities and a diplomatic solution started with Istanbul talks.
  • The investigation into the civilian killings should go on in parallel and not derail the diplomatic process.

What did Istanbul talks entail?

The Istanbul talks had opened a path towards peace.  According to the Ukrainian proposals, President Zelensky has agreed to

  • accept neutrality in return for multilateral security assurances.
  • Ready for a consultation period of 15 years for Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and
  • discuss the status of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk republics in a summit with Mr. Putin.

It was after Istanbul proposals that the Russians announced their pull back from the north. But the Bucha killings appear to have clouded the peace process.


  • Russia should follow up on its words with more demonstrable actions to end the hostilities. The war has damaged its economy and its reputation as a great power, while causing unspeakable losses and destruction in Ukraine.
  • The most important message from the UN body to Moscow is that it should cease the fire and take the path of diplomacy immediately.

Connecting the dots:

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