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Belize abstains from vote on Russian suspension from Human Rights Council, cites ‘ongoing investigations’

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Posted: Friday, April 8, 2022. 1:07 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: By a vote of 93 to 24 with 58 abstentions, the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday voted to suspend the Russian Federation from its Human Rights Council.

Belize was one of those 58 abstainers, and the Government has been forced to explain its vote after social media concern.

A statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explains that “the HRC has established a Commission of Inquiry mandated to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression against Ukraine by the Russian Federation. Additionally, the International Criminal Court Prosecutor is currently investigating the situation in Ukraine, including any alleged war crimes and any alleged crimes against humanity in all parts of Ukraine. Considering that these investigations are still ongoing, Belize is of the view that a determination to suspend Russia from the HRC would be best considered after the receipt of any definitive and actionable findings resulting from the investigations.”

Additionally, it notes that “consultation among CARICOM Member States on April 4 and April 7, … did not yield a consensus regional position.” Other countries in the region which abstained include Barbados, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The Government credits itself with co-sponsoring United Nations resolutions condemning the invasion on March 2 and 24; called for an immediate cessation of hostilities and urgent diplomatic efforts to seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and expressed grave concern about the plight of civilians in Ukraine. Belize’s position, it adds, remains that which was previously expressed on February 4 and February 24, 2022.

It concludes, “Belize remains resolute in its condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supports every effort to peacefully end the war.”

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Thursday calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council.

According to UN News, Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam were among those who voted against it. Those abstaining included India, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.

The resolution was sponsored by Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya who said, “Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army, serve as an example of how dramatically far the Russian Federation has gone from its initial declarations in the human rights domain. That is why this case is unique and today’s response is obvious and self-explanatory.”

Russia follows Libya which lost its seat in 2011, following repression of protests by ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later overthrown. The vote took place on the anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and the Ukrainian ambassador drew parallels with this dark page in recent history.

After failing to persuade fellow delegates to vote against the resolution, Russian Deputy Permanent Representative Gennady Kuzmin suddenly stated that Russia had already decided that day, to leave the Council before the end of its term, the Council was monopolized by a group of States who use it for their short-term aims: “These States for many years have directly been involved in blatant and massive violations of human rights, or abetted those violations.”

Mainland Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun warned that any hasty move in the General Assembly would be like “adding fuel to the fire”, as it would aggravate divisions, intensify the conflict, and jeopardize peace efforts.

But the representatives of the European Union (EU) and United States commended the decision. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield described the adoption of the resolution as “an important and historic moment”. It was not only about accountability for Russia, she said, but also about standing with the people of Ukraine.

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