Petition Urges Russia Be Suspended from UN Human Rights Council

Petition launched following Russian military incursion into Ukraine’s Crimea region

March 18, 2014

A new petition to the White House urges President Barack Obama to immediately take all necessary steps to suspend Russia from its seat on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council (HRC).

The petition launched Monday evening on urges Obama to live up to his promise to sanction Russia following its military incursion into the Ukraine’s Crimea region by suspending Moscow from the HRC, which oversees global human rights abuses.

"True international isolation requires the immediate removal of Russia from the United Nation’s top human rights body, the U.N. Human Rights Council," states the petition, which was created by Human Rights Voices, an advocacy group that exposes global human rights violations.

It pushes for the United States to file a resolution at the U.N. General Assembly "calling for the suspension of Russia as a Council member" as a result of its "aggression against Ukraine and egregious human rights abuses."

Additionally, Obama should take "all necessary steps immediately to suspend Russia from membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council."

The petition was filed just hours after citizens in Crimea voted to separate from Ukraine and join Russia, where President Vladimir Putin disregarded international pressure by amassing troops along the border and annexing the territory early Tuesday.

While the Obama administration has yet to formally respond to Putin’s recent moves, it has joined European nations in leveling sanctions against Russia. Vice President Joe Biden is in Poland and Lithuania Tuesday to discuss the issue with regional leaders.

Immediate action must be taken against Russia in order to preserve the U.N.’s integrity, the petition states.

"Russia’s membership on the Council, therefore, directly undermines the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations in general and its human rights system in particular," it states.

The petition then goes on to argue that Putin’s military incursion into Crimea and efforts to annex the territory constitute a gross violation of the U.N.’s charter.

"Russia has violated the U.N. Charter's fundamental principle of ‘non-interference in domestic jurisdiction’ by sending thousands of Russian troops into Ukraine," it states, adding that, "Russia is violating the sovereignty of Ukraine by occupying a foreign country against the wishes of its government."

The petition also criticizes Russia for "a long list" of human rights abuses, political repression, and support for rogue regimes.

"Russia’s disregard for human rights has led to its political, financial and military support for the genocidal regimes and state sponsors of terrorism, Iran and Syria," it states.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the petition late Monday when asked by the Washington Free Beacon if it would support such action against Russia.

Anne Bayefsky, Human Rights Voices’ senior editor and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, said Obama needs to show he is serious about confronting Putin’s aggression.

"If President Obama is serious about isolating Russia in the international community, in response to its flagrant violation of international law and human rights principles in Ukraine, the obvious place to start is Russia's membership in the U.N. Human Rights Council," Bayefsky told the Free Beacon.

"The president is fond of championing the Council as a beacon of human rights protection. But the Council is doing nothing to protect Ukrainians or Russia's next victims, since Russia is busy successfully protecting itself from the inside," she said. "Russia's presence on the U.N.'s top human rights body is a travesty and makes a mockery of the U.N. human rights system."

While Russia cannot so easily be removed from the U.N. Security Council, the General Assembly could vote to kick Russia off of the HRC.

"We will soon know if President Obama is serious about enforcing international law—even within the realm of diplomacy—or not," Bayefsky said.