The United Nations General Assembly has voted against Russia’s attempt to regain a seat on the Human Rights Council, following its ousting due to the invasion of Ukraine.
New York, October 11, 2023 – The United Nations General Assembly rejected Russia’s bid to regain a seat on the Human Rights Council. This comes after Russia was ousted from the council following its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia was in competition with Bulgaria and Albania for two open seats allocated to the Eastern Europe regional group. Despite securing 83 votes in favor from the 193 members of the UN General Assembly, Russia was unable to secure a seat on the council.
Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group noted that while Russia received support from nearly half of the UN’s members, Ukraine’s allies remain a powerful force in the General Assembly.
The election for the Human Rights Council’s 2024-2026 term was closely watched as it served as a test of the international community’s stance on Russia’s actions, especially in light of the recent missile attack on the Ukrainian village of Groza that claimed more than 50 lives.
Emine Dzheppar, the Ukrainian first deputy foreign minister, stated that “UN Member States have sent a strong response to the Kremlin on its aggression, war crimes, and atrocities committed in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”
The Human Rights Council consists of 47 members allocated by region, with each regional group typically pre-selecting its own candidates, subject to approval by the General Assembly. However, this year, two regional groups had more candidates than available seats.
In Eastern Europe, Albania, Bulgaria, and Russia were vying for two seats, while in Latin America, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Peru were competing for three seats.
The voting process is conducted by secret ballot, testing Russia’s assertion that it has support from developing countries, which may be growing weary of the substantial Western support for Ukraine.
In April 2022, 93 countries voted to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council, with 24 countries opposing the measure. While this vote was less one-sided than other resolutions related to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, it still reflected global concerns about Russia’s actions.
The United States, which had previously criticized the Human Rights Council, emphasizing a bias against Israel, expressed concern over Russia’s potential re-election to the council. The United States rejoined the council under President Joe Biden, following a withdrawal during the previous administration.
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the United Nations, argued that no member-state could claim immunity from human rights violations and called for strengthening international regulation rather than exclusion.
Human Rights Watch had called on countries to oppose the candidacies of Russia, China, and Cuba. China was ultimately reelected with 154 votes, while Cuba retained its seat with 146 votes.
The rejection of Russia’s bid to rejoin the Human Rights Council sends a strong message to the world regarding Russia’s actions and its place in international organizations.