[Over 200,000 people are believed to have died in the Syrian conflict during the last five years.]
New York: Russia lost its bid to retain a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) 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 Hungry 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.
Brazil, China, Croatia, Cuba, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Tunisia, United Kingdom and the United States were the 14 countries elected for three-year terms beginning January 1, 2017. India is a member of the 47-member human rights body and its term will expire in 2017.
"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", he added.
Moscow has faced severe international criticism for allying with the Syrian government, carrying out airstrikes to support the Syrian armed forces that have indiscriminately killed and wounded countless civilians.
Russia was seeking re-election to the human rights body, competing with Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria for two seats in the Eastern European bloc.
In Russia’s loss, leading human rights organizations saw a strong message to Moscow condemning its policies in Syria.
“In rejecting Russia’s bid for re-election to the Human Rights Council, UN member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria,” UN director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) Louis Charbonneau said in a statement.
Geneva-based human rights organization UN Watch described Russia’s ouster from the Human Rights Council as a “positive outcome” of the election.
UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said the “non-election of Russia shows that the nations of the world can reject gross abusers if they so choose.”
Over 200,000 people are believed to have died in the Syrian conflict during the last five years.