IN NEWS: United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council.
The 197-member UN body voted on a resolution brought by the US. The resolution was adopted with 93 votes in favour, 24 against, and 58 abstentions, including India.
Why Russia has been suspended from the council?
- Russia’s three-year term as a member of the Human Right Council began on January 1, 2021
- With membership in the Council comes a responsibility to uphold high human rights standards. This is a criteria insisted on by States themselves when they adopted resolution 60/251 in March 2006 to create the Human Rights Council
- It is in this responsibility that Russia is alleged to have wilfully violated in Ukraine.
- The resolution to suspend Russia was first moved by the United States over Moscow’s military aggression
- The resolution is titled ‘Suspension of the rights of membership of the Russian Federation in the Human Rights Council’. It expressed grave concern regarding reports of gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law committed by Russia during its aggression against Ukraine.
- Russia is only the second nation after Libya whose membership has been suspended
Procedure of suspending
- The General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, “may suspend the rights of membership in the Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
- Abstentions do not count and the resolution required two-thirds of yes/no votes to be adopted.
- India abstained for reasons of “substance and process”.
- Several countries opposed the resolution on the ground that it had been put to vote before an independent inquiry had presented its findings. Some countries like India were of the view that adopting the resolution would violate due process and impact the credibility of the organisation.
Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system made up of 47 States responsible for the promotion and protection of all human rights around the globe.
It has the ability to discuss all thematic human rights issues and situations that require its attention throughout the year. It meets at the UN Office in Geneva.
Membership in the Council
- The Council is made up of 47 UN Member States who are elected by majority vote through a direct and secret ballot at the UNGA.
- The UNGA takes into account the candidate States’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights, as well as their voluntary pledges and commitments in this regard.
- The membership of the Council is based on equitable geographical distribution.
- African and Asia-Pacific states have 13 seats each,
- Latin American and Caribbean states have 8 seats,
- Western European and other states 7 seats,
- Eastern European states 6 seats.
- The members serve for three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.
The leadership of the Council
The Council has a five-person Bureau, consisting of a president and four vice-presidents, each representing one of the five regional groups. They serve for a year each, in accordance with the Council’s annual cycle.
Meetings of the Council
The Human Rights Council holds no fewer than three regular sessions a year, for a total of at least 10 weeks.
If a third of the Member states request, the Council can decide at any time to hold a special session to address human rights violations and emergencies.
Working of the Council
- The Human Rights Council replaced the former UN Commission on Human Rights. It was created by the UNGA on March 15, 2006.
- Universal Periodic Review: to assess the human rights situations in all UN Member States
- Advisory Committee: that serves as the Council’s think tank providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues,
- The Complaint Procedure: This allows individuals and organisations to bring human rights violations to the Council’s attention.
- The Council also works with the UN Special Procedures established by the former Commission on Human Rights, consisting of special rapporteurs, special representatives, independent experts, and working groups that monitor, examine, advice, and report on thematic issues or human rights situations in specific countries.
- The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945. Currently made up of 193 Member States, the UN and its work are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter.
- Its activities include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law.
Main organs of the United Nations
United Nations General Assembly
- The General Assemblyis the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the UN.
- All 193 Member Statesof the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.
- It provides a unique forum for multilateral discussion of the full spectrum of international issues covered by the Charter of the United Nations.
- Each of the 193 Member States of the United Nations has an equal vote.
- The UNGA also makes key decisions for the UN, including:
- Appointing the Secretary-General on the recommendation of the Security Council
- Electing the non-permanent members of the Security Council
- Approving the UN budget
- Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members, and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
- Decisions on other questions are by simple majority.
- The president of the general assembly is elected each year by assembly to serve a one-year term of office.