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UN approves Czech Republic to replace Russia on Human Rights Council

United Nations General Assembly Hall in the UN Headquarters, New York. (IIP Photo Archive/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The UN General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the Human Rights Council, the world organization’s leading human rights body.

The vote was 157 countries in favor and 23 abstentions.

The Czech Republic was the only candidate for the seat left vacant when the General Assembly voted to suspend Russia over “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights” by invading Russian troops in Ukraine.

Seats on the 47-member Geneva-based council are divided among regional groups and a replacement for Russia had to come from an East European country.

Russia was suspended from the council last month by a vote in the General Assembly after which Russian Deputy Ambassador Gennady Kuzmin said Russia had withdrawn from the council before the vote.

The council is scheduled to hold a special session on May 12 at Kyiv’s request to examine “the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement on May 10 said that Russia will not participate in the special session.

“Arguments and explanations on the true objectives of this special military operation and the real situation on the ground have been completely ignored,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in the statement.

Though Moscow was suspended from the rights body, it would have been allowed to participate due to its observer status.

Countries that supported Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council said it should not be able to sit in judgment on other nations’ human rights records.

The council voted on March 4 to trigger a commission of inquiry — the highest-possible level of investigation — into alleged Russian violations during Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.