In a startling vote believed to be inspired by its military action in Syria, the Russian Federation was voted off the United Nations Human Rights Council in a General Assembly vote on Friday.
“U.N. member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria,” U.N. director at Human Rights Watch, Louis Charbonneau told reporters.
The vote against Russia retaining a seat on the panel marks the first time a major world power has been denied a position on the commission.
Russia was standing for a second three-year term on the 47-member panel.
The loss by two votes in a secret ballot among all 193 UN members, Russia was replaced by Hungary, which received 144 votes, followed by Croatia, which bested Russia’s bid to return to the committee by two votes with 114 in favor.
Of the 14 open seats, Russia had sought to retain its spot as a representative of Eastern Europe.
China, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Iraq, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia also won seats; both the U.S. and the U.K. re-took positions representing Western Europe after having ran unopposed.
Also running opposed was Saudi Arabia, which retained its spot from the Asia Group.
Critics have long assailed the presence of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia on the panel, with rights groups expressing skepticism of the validity of the commission’s mission with rights violators as judges.
Russia’s three-year term ends on Dec. 31.
[The Globe and Mail] [Photo courtesy UN via The Times of Israel]