Russia lost its bid to retain a seat on the UN Human Rights Council amid daily accusations that the country may be guilty of war crimes for its support of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s assault on the city of Aleppo.
The 193-member General Assembly on Friday elected 14 countries to the 47-member council. With 112 votes, Russia lost to Hungary and Croatia. As many as 87 human rights groups had objected to Russia’s candidacy, said Akshaya Kumar, deputy UN director for Human Rights Watch, a New York-based advocacy group.
“It’s hard to imagine the atrocities happening in Aleppo weren’t on the minds of the people casting their votes today,” Kumar said. “This is a historic rejection.”
The humanitarian crisis in the eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo worsened after a U.S.-Russian ceasefire deal fell apart and Assad’s Russian-backed forces stepped up their campaign to defeat rebels holding the city, where some 275,000 people remain trapped. The incessant bombing has prompted some U.S. and European leaders to threaten possible sanctions, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry saying a war crimes investigation may be warranted.
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin downplayed the vote, saying that Croatia and Hungary, “are fortunate because of their size they are not as exposed to the winds of international diplomacy.” Russia had been on the council for a while and “I’m sure next time we’re going to get in.”
Other countries elected to the council on Friday included Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China, Brazil, Rwanda, Cuba, South Africa, Japan, Tunisia, the U.S. and the U.K.