More than a year after Russia was expelled from UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council), it now seeks to rejoin the forum. According to a circulating Russia position paper in the UN, Moscow is pushing member nations to support the motion. According to the document, “Russia promises to find “adequate solutions for human right issues.” It seeks to stop the council from becoming an “instrument which is a political will of one group of countries.”
This move is a crucial test of Russia’s international standing, as it was expelled from the United Nations pre-eminent human right organization in April of 2022 after its military forces attacked Ukraine. The United Nations General Assembly, during an emergency special session, voted to suspend Russia from the human right body over allegations of violations of rights by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The resolution was put forth by the United States in April of 2022 and passed with 93 votes in favor, 24 against it, and 58 abstentions.
Russia’s aspiration to rejoin the UNHRC is met with skepticism and opposition from various countries. The UNHRC comprises 47 Member States elected by the UN General Assembly, and a two-thirds vote is needed to remove or admit a member. Russia’s attempt to regain a seat on the council coincides with concerns raised by UN experts about the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. Special Rapporteur Mariana Katzarova’s report alleges mass arbitrary arrests of war critics and the persistent use of torture and ill-treatment in detention.
Critics argue that Russia’s return to the UNHRC would undermine the council’s credibility, given its track record of alleged human rights abuses in Ukraine and within its borders. The move has also been met with strong opposition from the UK, which “strongly opposes” Russia’s bid to rejoin the Human Rights Council. The UK Foreign Office spokesperson highlighted widespread evidence of Russia’s human rights abuses in Ukraine and against its citizens, emphasizing the need to uphold the essential values of the UN.