GENEVA, April 6, 2022 — The independent non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, which spearheaded the campaign (see below) to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, welcomed today’s General Assembly decision to suspend the Putin regime as “a rare day of moral clarity at the United Nations and its highest human rights body,” in the words of executive director Hillel Neuer, who now calls for serial abusers like China, Venezuela and Cuba to also be removed.
“Today should be a turning point. EU states and others that often defend the election of gross abusers as somehow a good thing have now effectively abandoned that position in favor of a principled approach, more consistent with the rights council’s own membership criteria,” said Neuer.
Addressing the 14th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights yesterday, Neuer called on the UN to apply its own rules and standards and remove “Eritrea with its slave labor, Libya, which tortures African migrants and sells them in markets; Mauritania which still has slavery; Pakistan, which hosts terrorists; and Somalia with female genital mutilation. They, too, must all be removed.”
Accountability is also important. “The election of Russia to the world’s top human rights body in 2020 was a shameful act that legitimized Putin’s regime, demoralized his victims, and stained the reputation of the United Nations,” said Neuer.
“The 158 UN member states who two years ago voted to make Putin a world judge on human rights—and the others who stood by silently—should ask forgiveness from the Ukrainian men, women and children who are now paying the price of Russia’s brutal invasion of their country, in Bucha and elsewhere,” said Neuer.
Timeline: UN Watch’s Campaign To Oust Russia From UNHRC
- April 29, 2020: When Vladimir Putin’s Russia announced its bid for a UNHRC seat, UN Watch was the first to fact-check and expose their lies. Our objections to electing Russia were published as official documents by the United Nations and circulated to diplomats. In a press conference, UN Watch invited Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, twice poisoned in Moscow, to appeal to the United Nations not to elect the Putin regime to the world’s highest human rights body, saying it would be “an embodiment of the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse.”
- September 24, 2020: UN Watch took the floor in the plenary of the UNHRC, saying: “In its pledge, Russia promised to ensure protection of human rights and freedoms under international law. If so, why does Russia trample international law — by invading Ukraine, swallowing Crimea, and systematically bombing civilians, hospitals and schools in Syria? Why do critics of President Putin wind up imprisoned, poisoned or assassinated?”
- October 13, 2020: Russia wins election to the council, sweeping 82% of the votes. BBC News reports on UN Watch’s opposition campaign, including its joint NGO report on why Russia and other candidates were entirely unqualified.
- Feb. 2022: As soon as Russia attacked Ukraine, UN Watch led the call on democracies to expel Russia from the UNHRC. As we predicted, the international community had to wait for a new atrocity—the slaughter in Bucha—to take action to expel Russia from the UN’s top human rights body.
- March 1, 2022: US Secretary of State Tony Blinken addressed the UN Human Rights Council and implied that Russia did not belong there.
- March 2, 2022: Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets told the Council directly: “The only way to retain the credibility of the Human Rights Council is to suspend the membership of Russia.”
- March 29, 2022: In an extraordinary statement, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman opposed removing Russia, saying it would be “setting a dangerous precedent.” (March 29, 2022 briefing | Video)
- March 31, 2022: UN Watch took the floor at the United Nations Human Rights Council to formally demand that they remove Russia. Our appeal entered the record.
- April 3, 2022: UN Watch criticized the UN chief for his inappropriate statement defending Russia, and reminded him that, on the contrary, it is the failure to enforce the UNHRC’s own rules on membership duties that would be dangerous; and that the precedent is that, in wake of a 2010-2011 campaign led by UN Watch, Qaddafi’s Libya was removed in 2011 from the Council.
- April 3, 2022: UN Watch drafted a resolution to remove Russia and circulated it to diplomats, calling on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield to take the lead at the General Assembly.
- April 4, 2022: CNN reports on UN Watch’s campaign and interviews executive director Hillel Neuer. “This morning, new calls to remove Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council. The group UN Watch is drafting a resolution for the UN General Assembly to force them out.” (video | transcript)
- April 6, 2022: The U.S., other Western democracies and Ukraine co-sponsor a draft resolution, similar to that published earlier by UN Watch.
- April 7, 2022: The UN General Assembly votes 93 to 24 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.