UN General Assembly should suspend Russia’s membership of the UN Human Rights CouncilPublished: Mar 8, 2022 Reading time: 4 minutes
We, the undersigned civil society organisations, call on Member States of the United Nations to take and support action at the UN General Assembly to suspend the Russian Federation as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
Pursuant to OP 9 of GA Resolution 60/251, members of the Council ‘shall uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights’.
Operative paragraph 8 of GA Resolution 60/251 provides that ‘the General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights’.
In its Resolution on the Aggression against Ukraine adopted on 2 March 2022, the General Assembly unequivocally condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine commencing 24 February 2022 and expressed ‘grave concern at reports of attacks on civilian facilities such as residences, schools and hospitals, and of civilian casualties, including women, older persons, persons with disabilities, and children’.
In her 3 March 2022 statement to the UN Human Rights Council ‘urgent debate on the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression’, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the Russian attack has already resulted in a ‘massive impact on the human rights of millions of people across Ukraine’. This massive impact includes:
• Forcing over 1 million people to seek refuge in neigbouring countries and the internal displacement of over 1 million other people, with UNHCR warning that up to 4 million people may be forced to seek refuge in coming weeks.
• At least 752 confirmed civilian casualties, including 15 children killed. In reality, this number is likely to be much, much higher given lack of access to areas where conflict has been the most intense and given the documented use of heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and cluster munitions in densely populated civilian areas.
• The targeting or indiscriminate destruction of significant civilian infrastructure, including a hospital, schools, kindergartens, apartment buildings, and critical electricity, water, sanitation and healthcare supplies and facilities.
On 3 March 2022, it was reported that Russia has drawn up plans for public executions in captured Ukrainian cities to deter any further resistance, while on 4 March it was reported that Russian forces had fired heavy artillery at a nuclear reactor.
In Russia itself, authorities have arbitrarily arrested and detained over 7,500 peaceful anti-war protesters, with reports of excessive use of force by Russian authorities. Authorities have also sought to censor reporting of the war in Ukraine and to silence those media outlets and individuals who speak out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including through blocking media websites, threats of criminal prosecution under ‘fake news’ and ‘high treason’ charges and other means.
International Criminal Court is starting investigation
On 2 March 2022, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, in light of prima facie evidence of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is very clear that the invasion itself constitutes the crime of aggression.
Taken together, it is indisputable that the Russian Federation is committing widespread and systematic human rights violations. This includes violations of the rights to life, self-determination, liberty and security of person, freedom of movement, expression, association and assembly, freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy and the home, protection of the family, and the rights to health, housing, education, sanitation and water. All this in a context in which the Russian aggression constitutes a flagrant violation of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including as set out in the Preamble and articles 2(3), 2(4) and 33(1).
The Russian Federation’s continued membership of the UN Human Rights Council is likely to bring the Council into disrepute. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of circumstances to which the suspension procedure set out in OP 8 of GA Resolution 60/251 were more intended to apply than the case of one Member State launching an unprovoked and illegal war of aggression in violation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of another Member State with the result of massive loss of life and other gross and systematic human rights violations.
We urge you to uphold the UN Charter, the authority of the General Assembly and the integrity of the Human Rights Council by taking and supporting action to suspend the Russian Federation from the Council.
African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies
Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative
Defend Defenders (East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project)
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect (GCR2P)
Human Rights House Foundation
International Commission of Jurists
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
People in Need (PIN)
Universal Rights Group