March 29, 2022

Risch, Menendez, Colleagues Request Removal of Russia from UNHRC Due to War Crimes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) yesterday sent a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield requesting she introduce a resolution at the United Nations (UN) to remove Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

“In February, Russia launched a massive military invasion into the free and sovereign nation of Ukraine, resulting in thousands of casualties, including that of children, pregnant women, health workers, journalists, and countless others,” wrote the senators. “We have seen the indiscriminate shelling of apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools and the slaughter of fleeing civilians. The multitude of crimes committed by the Russian Federation, and by Vladimir Putin himself, demonstrates that the Russian government has no intention of upholding international human rights.”

“According to the membership rules of the UNHRC, states engaging in a pattern of gross and systemic abuses can be removed by a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly,” the senators continued. “We implore you to introduce a resolution in the UN General Assembly to call for the removal of the Russian Federation from the UNHRC immediately.”

Full text of the letter can be found here and below:

Dear Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield:

We write to encourage further action by the U.S. government to respond to Russia’s unprovoked, inhumane, and illegal invasion into Ukraine at the United Nations (UN), specifically in the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

In February, Russia launched a massive military invasion into the free and sovereign nation of Ukraine, resulting in thousands of causalities, including that of children, pregnant women, health workers, journalists, and countless others.  We have seen the indiscriminate shelling of apartment buildings, hospitals, and schools and the slaughter of fleeing civilians.  The multitude of crimes committed by the Russian Federation, and by Vladimir Putin himself, demonstrates that the Russian government has no intention of upholding international human rights.  As such, it is time we consider whether the Russian Federation deserves to reap benefits from an organization whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.

If the United States is a member of the Council, then it should use its seat to counter authoritarian agendas as part of a foreign policy centered on democracy and human rights.  Despite the UNHRC’s flaws, the Council took an important step on March 4 when it overwhelmingly adopted a Ukrainian-sponsored and U.S.-supported resolution to establish an independent international commission of inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of human rights in the context of the Russian invasion.  Still, it is our belief that Russia should not have a seat on what is supposed to be the premiere international human rights body. Russia should not have an opportunity to continue to block, stifle, and otherwise distract from important conversations on the situation of human rights in Ukraine.  Swift action must be taken to show the world the United States and our allies will not stand for indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks on civilians and democracies.  The time has come for Russia to no longer have a seat on the Council.

According to the membership rules of the UNHRC, states engaging in a pattern of gross and systemic abuses can be removed by a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly. We implore you to introduce a resolution in the UN General Assembly to call for the removal of the Russian Federation from the UNHRC immediately. 

Russia does not deserve to maintain a seat on the UNHRC while it is waging a violent war against peaceful civilians.  The world must take a stand for the promotion and protection of human rights, including those under attack in Ukraine.

Sincerely,

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