Suspension of Russia from UN Human Rights Council – What does it mean?

It means very little in practice and only a little more in theory. 93 members voted to suspend, 24 against and 57 abstained. It was a vote depicting one’s own human rights record. With the pictures from the war in Ukraine Russia is the most egregious violator. But the vote expresses much more than simply the decision taken. Immediately after the vote Russia resigned from the UNHRC. The purpose here was to show that Russia does not care, to thumb its nose at the UN and that is precisely the problem. Were Putin or Lavrov injected with truth serum, both would acknowledge amidst laughter that they couldn’t care less about human rights. Truth serum would evoke a similar response from the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aside from the fact that Russia should never have been a member of UNHRC, the most troubling reality was the vote count. Eighty one countries acknowledged that they have their own serious human rights’ issues. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that there were no surprises. The states voted according to their records, lest they be exposed.

However, today’s news concerns only Russia because it is unique. None of the other violators transcend internationally recognised borders, violate territorial integrity, blatantly commit war crimes on someone other’s sovereign lands and have stated on more than one occasion its intent to commit genocide beyond its borders.

The most glaring problem with international law is the lack of enforce-ability. Even the UN International Criminal Court is very much deficient on grounds of jurisdiction and enforceability which immediately precludes remedies, preliminary and long term. This court has taken on the task of investigating Russia’s war crimes in Ukraine. This is an ongoing process. In the interim Russia will continue its crimes. There is no mechanism for injunctive preliminary relief and even were there who would enforce it.

This is where international institutions should seek relevance. There is a genocide going on of an international order and the law abiding world community is powerless to stop it. But that is the point precisely. It’s not powerless. It’s unwilling. That is a major distinction. No one country should be in a position to police the globe, but the international community acting through a majority should be able to do so.

Would a defence alliance such as NATO composed of thirty members be the proper enforcement mechanism. NATO spokespeople continue to stammer on the Article 5 provision. There is, however, a preamble to the NATO charter which addresses security in the Northern Atlantic. Article 5 is a convenience for those unwilling to act.

People are inherently selfish. So are nations and states. Assuming total lack of the moral element, still there is ample reason to believe that the Russians if successful at killing in Ukraine will move on to new pastures. Verbal sympathy and condemnation are simply not enough. Russia’s suspension at the UNHRC does not prevent war crimes or genocide. Neither does it stop further aggression.

What is needed is a new albeit temporary international ad hoc effort, a coalition of the willing NATO and/or UN members who are prepared to go into Ukraine if only to stop the war crimes and genocide. The Ukrainian military will take care of the rest as it has shown. Ukraine’s efforts should buoy the international community. Ukraine will lead the effort.

This is not only about Putin and waiting for an internal regime change in Russia. Russia made Putin not the other way around. Yes, it was the dark soul of Russia that evolved this criminal. Putin in his own way is a fitting successor to Ivan the Terrible, Peter I, Catherine II, Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin. Putin, Lavrov, Kirill are all in the same cloth. The Russian Orthodox Church is as much a criminal institution as the Kremlin.

For all of them the dead are merely statistics. Their own soldiers are mere cannon fodder. Russian mothers are hardened by Russian imperialism and aggression. Close to 20 thousand Russian soldiers have been killed in this war. Are there many Russian mothers in the streets of Moscow or St. Petersburg?

Good cannot prevail over evil if the good is manifested merely with sympathetic words or even a UNGA resolution or even defensive weapon support, but without more meaningful activity. Even the most naive among us has to take note that there is much very wrong in this world. We need to step up. Like cancer, evil grows if unchecked. My understanding of the recent vote at the UNGA is that there are some 80 states observing whether we have the moral resolve to stop this most heinous genocidal killer. Their future behaviour and the state of the world will depend on our integrity and action today.

bohdaApril 9, 2022 Askold S. Lozynskyj