UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations General Assembly will vote Thursday on whether to suspend…

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations General Assembly will vote Thursday on whether to suspend Russia from the UN’s top human rights body. The move was initiated by the United States in response to the discovery of hundreds of bodies after Russian troops withdrew from towns near the Ukrainian capital kyiv, sparking calls for its forces to be tried for war crimes.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has called for Russia to be stripped of its seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council following videos and photos of streets in the town of Bucha littered with corpses of what appeared to be civilians. The videos and reports from the city have sparked global revulsion and calls for tougher sanctions against Russia, which has vehemently denied responsibility.

“We believe that members of the Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine, and we believe that Russia must be held accountable,” Thomas-Greenfield said Monday. “Russia’s participation in the Human Rights Council is a farce.”

General Assembly spokeswoman Paulina Kubiak said Wednesday that the Assembly’s emergency special session on Ukraine would resume Thursday at 10 a.m. EDT when the resolution “to suspend Council membership rights of Human Rights of the Russian Federation” will be put to the vote.

While the Human Rights Council is based in Geneva, its members are elected by the 193-nation General Assembly for a three-year term. The March 2006 resolution that established the Human Rights Council states that the assembly can suspend the membership rights of a country “that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights”.

The brief resolution put to the vote expresses “serious concern at the ongoing humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ukraine, in particular at reports of human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by the Russian Federation, including gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights. »

To be approved, the resolution requires a two-thirds majority of the members of the assembly who vote “yes” or “no”. Abstentions do not count.

The General Assembly voted 140 to 5 with 38 abstentions on March 24 on a resolution blaming Russia for the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and calling for an immediate ceasefire and the protection of millions of civilians and homes, schools and hospitals essential to their survival.

The vote was almost exactly the same as the March 2 resolution passed by the assembly demanding an immediate Russian ceasefire, the withdrawal of all its forces and the protection of all civilians. This vote was 141-5 with 35 abstentions.

Thomas-Greenfield said Monday his message to the 140 members who voted in favor of these two resolutions to support Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council is simple: “The images of Bucha and the devastation across the ‘Ukraine now forces us to match our words with action.”

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“We cannot allow a member state that overthrows all the principles we hold dear to continue to serve on the UN Human Rights Council,” she said.

Russia’s Ambassador to Geneva, Gennady Gatilov, called the US action “unfounded and purely emotional bravado that looks good on camera – just the way the US likes it”.

“Washington is exploiting the Ukrainian crisis for its own benefit in an attempt to exclude or suspend Russia from international organizations,” Gatilov said, in remarks relayed by a spokesman for the Russian diplomatic mission.

Russia and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power – Britain, China, France and the United States – all currently have seats on the Human Rights Council. man, which the United States joined this year.

The only country whose council membership rights were stripped was Libya in 2011, when unrest in the North African country toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi, the council’s spokesman said. , Rolando Gomez.

No permanent member of the Security Council has ever had their membership revoked from any UN body.

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