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WORLD | 04-03-2022 22:55

Russia isolated as UN council votes to probe human rights abuses in Ukraine

Argentina's government, which chairs UN body, among 32 nations to support call for investigation into alleged human rights violations committed by Russia.

Russia appeared more diplomatically isolated than ever on Friday after a historic vote by the United Nations Human Rights Council triggered an investigation into alleged violations committed in Moscow's Ukraine war.

"The message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has been clear: You're isolated on a global level and the whole world is against you," Ukrainian Ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko told reporters after the overwhelming vote.

Thirty-two of the council's 47 members voted to establish the highest-level probe possible, in a bid to hold perpetrators responsible. Argentina’s government, which currently chairs the council, was among those to back the resolution.

Only Russia itself and Eritrea voted against, while 13 countries abstained, including Moscow's traditional backers China, Venezuela and Cuba.

The heavy blow to Russia came after the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday issued its own powerful rebuke, with a 141-5 vote to deplore Moscow's invasion and demand an immediate withdrawal.

Friday's vote opens the way to create an independent international commission of inquiry "to investigate all alleged violations and abuses... in the context of the Russian Federation's aggression against Ukraine."

Argentina will now have the task of appointing an Independent International Commission of Inquiry composed of three experts to determine if human rights violations have taken place in Ukraine.

 

'Russia stands alone'

The resolution called for the appointment of three investigators to "establish the facts, circumstances, and root causes of any such violations and abuses," and to gather evidence "with a view to ensuring that those responsible are held accountable."

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has already begun investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine.

"I thank all those who voted," Filipenko said, calling for the investigation to start "as soon as possible, given the urgency of the situation.”

Flanked by many of her counterparts from across the globe, the ambassador celebrated that "the whole world is standing by Ukraine."

Kyiv's backers echoed her sentiment. "The vote was a powerful condemnation of Russia's actions," US ambassador Sheba Crocker said. "Members of the international community stand with Ukraine, and it is clear that Russia stands alone."

Russian Ambassador Gennady Gatilov however said he did not believe Friday's council vote reflected "all the nuances" of the positions of countries who voted in favour or abstained.

"I wouldn't say we are isolated," he told reporters in Geneva. "A number of countries were heavily pressed by the US and their Western allies."

Friday's decision was considered an extremely strong one by the rights council, which has never before passed a resolution directly targeting Russia. 

Nonetheless, rights groups suggested the text should have gone further, and called for the investigation to extend to widespread abuses inside Russia itself. 

A number also called for the text to include a request for the General Assembly to consider revoking Russia's membership of the Human Rights Council, with some countries seeming to back the idea.

Asked about it, Filipenko stressed to reporters that "nothing is off the table."

Cecilia Meirovich, Director of Human Rights at the Foreign Ministry, was in charge of casting Argentina’s vote yesterday. 

"The situation in Ukraine is putting countless lives at risk,” she told the council. “We are certain of one thing: there is no military solution to this issue. History has shown us time and again that violence is not the way and that it is only through dialogue and diplomacy that lasting solutions can be found.”

“Argentina once again calls on the Russian Federation to put an end to the military actions [in Ukraine] and we encourage all parties involved to make their best efforts to avoid further tragedy,” she concluded.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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