GENEVA (AA) – Condemning Moscow’s “premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine” for violating international law, the US secretary of state on Tuesday questioned whether Russia is fit to be a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
“More than at any other point in recent history, the principles at the heart of this council’s work – and the entire United Nations – are being challenged,” Antony Blinken said in a video address to the council.
“One can reasonably ask whether a UN member state that tries to take over another UN member state – while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering – should be allowed to remain on this council,” he said.
Russia is carrying out a “premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack” on Ukraine while violating international law and flouting the core principles of international peace and security, “creating human rights and a humanitarian crisis,” he added.
Blinken said that he was happy the US had rejoined the council.
In June 2018 the administration of then-President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 47-member council, accusing it of not being “worthy of its name” and citing alleged “chronic bias” against Israel and inclusion of human rights abusers as council members.
Human rights abuses
“Reports of Russia’s human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law mount by the hour,” said Blinken in the first US address as a full member of the council since leaving.
He said Russian strikes are hitting schools, hospitals, and residential buildings.
The Russians are destroying critical infrastructure, providing millions of people across Ukraine with drinking water, gas to keep them from freezing to death, and electricity, said Blinken.
“Civilian buses, cars, and even ambulances have been shelled. Russia is doing this every day – across Ukraine,” said Blinken.
He cited a speech by the UN Human Rights Office chief this week in which she said that Russia’s attacks had killed at least 100 civilians, including children, and wounded hundreds more – and said she fears the actual figures are much higher.
“And the casualties keep mounting, including the many civilians killed and wounded in Russia’s monstrous rocket strikes that hit an apartment complex in Kharkiv yesterday,” said Blinken.
“Russia’s violence has driven over half a million Ukrainians from the country in just a few days, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, who are making harrowing journeys through conflict zones.”
Blinken said that the Kremlin is also ramping up repression within Russia, shuttering human rights groups, and harassing, poisoning, and imprisoning anti-corruption activists and political opponents.
“Authorities reportedly have detained thousands of Russians peacefully protesting the invasions, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations” against the war, he said.