SA abstains from 'premature' suspension of Russia from UN Human Rights Council

South Africa has described as premature the suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

A Ukranian serviceman walks between rubble of the destroyed regional headquarters of Kharkiv on 27 March 2022. Picture: Aris Messinis/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has described as premature the suspension of Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

Of the 193 members of the assembly, 93 voted in favour while 24 voted against and 58 abstained.

READ: Some of the war crimes Russia has been accused of since invading Ukraine.

South Africa decided not to vote despite pressure from Moscow to vote “no”.

Deputy Ambassador to the UN Xolisa Mabhongo said, "South Africa is of the firm belief that the tabling of the resolution that we will consider today [Thursday] is premature and pre-judges the decision of the commission of Inquiry."

"We must allow the commission to undertake its mandate and report to the Human Rights Council on its outcomes. The resolution will further divide the matter and the general assembly itself."

“The resolution that we are considering today will further divide and polarise the matter and the General Assembly itself without following due process. South Africa maintains that in considering the suspension of a member of the Human Rights Council, we must be consistent and not selective as this will undermine the credibility of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. For these reasons, South Africa will abstain on the resolution.”

Thursday’s vote suggested the weakening international unity against Russia.

RUSSIA REJECTS SUSPENSION

Moscow’s foreign ministry has responded to the suspensions, calling it "illegal".

Russia considers the vote to suspend it, taken by the UN General Assembly earlier Thursday, to be "illegal and politically motivated, aimed at ostentatiously punishing a sovereign UN member state that pursues an independent domestic and foreign policy", the foreign ministry said.

The Russian ministry has decided on an "early termination" of its seat on the rights council.

"Unfortunately, under the current conditions, the Council is practically monopolised by a group of states that use it for their own opportunistic purposes," the ministry added.

It was the second ever suspension of a country from the council. Libya was the first, in 2011.

Moscow has been an intermittent member of the rights council since 2006/ Ukraine is also a member.