GENEVA (AP) – The United Nations’ (UN) top human rights body overwhelmingly approved a resolution on Friday that aims to set up a three-member panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine.
The decision demonstrates growing international unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s increasing international isolation. Some 32 of the 47 member states of the UN Human Rights Council voted in favour of the resolution while 13 abstained.
Only Russia and Eritrea voted against the resolution that was proposed by Western states and others who have spoken out against the invasion.
Several countries that had either openly or tacitly supported Moscow appeared to have backed off from offering that support.
China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained on Friday, despite having joined Russia and Eritrea in voting down on Monday a proposal by Ukraine’s government to hold an “urgent debate” on the rights situation in Ukraine. The debate took place on Thursday and culminated in Friday’s vote.
Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates which abstained on Monday supported the resolution on Friday.
During the debate, country after country spoke out against Russia’s invasion. Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels – honouring the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Even observer countries including Gambia and Malaysia also decried Russia’s actions.
Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko was visibly moved by the result, telling delegates after the vote: “I thank all those who voted for the right course.”
Friday’s vote was an important bellwether of international sentiment about the invasion. It came two days after the UN General Assembly in New York voted 141-5, with 35 abstentions, to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in a non-binding vote.
“I wouldn’t say that we are isolated,” Russia’s ambassador in Geneva Gennady Gatilov told the UN Geneva press association ACANU after the vote.
He accused the United States and Western allies of putting “pressure” on many countries.
Gatilov said “history will show who is right” when asked whether the countries that condemned Russia’s invasion were on the wrong side of history.
The council’s resolution seeks the “immediate operationalisation” of a three-person team of experts known as a Commission of Inquiry – the council’s most powerful tool of scrutiny. Its members are to be appointed by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet. The experts will be tasked to collect and analyse evidence that could be used by a court, such as the International Criminal Court, which has launched its own investigation over Russia’s invasion.