Russia lost the vote to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on Tuesday, October 10. Instead, Albania and Bulgaria won the two Eastern European council seats, which are both supporters of Ukraine, showing that international support to isolate Moscow still remains after nearly two years of fighting. According to The New York Times, nearly 150 countries have backed UN resolutions demanding Russian withdrawal from Ukraine and many nations have imposed economic sanctions on Moscow since the invasion.
The General Assembly, made up of 193 countries, took part in a secret ballot vote, in which Russia received 83 votes, Bulgaria received 160, and Albania received 123. According to The Associated Press, Russia claims support from a ‘silent majority’ and its 83 votes are sure to concern Ukraine and its Western allies.
Russia was originally suspended from the Council in April of 2022 just months after launching the initial invasion of Ukraine. According to UN News, this was the first time that a nation has had its membership of the HRC suspended since Libya was suspended in 2011. According to Reuters, the International Criminal Court also accused President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova of war crimes, such as the illegal deportation of hundreds of Ukrainian children, willful killings, and torture.
According to The New York Times, the vote came shortly after a Russian missile strike hit a small Ukrainian village killing more than 50 people, including a six-year-old child. It was one of the largest losses of civilian life since the beginning of the war. Many countries were concerned that Russia’s re-election to the Council would stain the credibility of the institution and the United Nations, says The Associated Press.
Prior to the vote, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told guests at a reception in New York, “Russia stands ready to continue promoting human rights as a component in the rapprochement of States and groups of States and not as a matter discord, pressure and mentoring,” reports CNN. The Kremlin was hoping that enough countries would be willing to put aside their initial outrage to reinstate its place on the council. According to Reuters, some diplomats were worried that there were signs of Ukraine war “fatigue” which led them to believe that Russia had a reasonable chance of getting voted back onto the HRC.
Before the vote, Russia claimed they would win the vote of many developing nations under the secret ballot. According to BBC News, the Kremlin claims many of these countries secretly sympathize with Russia but are afraid to do so publicly. Richard Gowan, UN Director of the International Crisis Group, told The Associated Press, “I think the Russians will be pleased that they persuaded a sizeable minority of UN members to back them (which) suggests that Moscow is not a total pariah in the UN system, despite repeated Western criticism.”
The countries elected this year, serving for three years, are: Albania, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Malawi, and the Netherlands.
Image courtesy of the United Nations