UNITED NATIONS -- The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for the Czech Republic to replace Russia on the world organization’s leading human rights body following its suspension over allegations of horrific rights violations by Russian soldiers in Ukraine.
The Czech Republic was the only candidate for the seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council. Seats on the Geneva-based council are divided among regional groups and a replacement for Russia had to come from an East European country.
In Tuesday’s secret ballot vote, 180 of the General Assembly’s 193 members deposited ballots. The result was 157 countries in favor of the Czech Republic and 23 abstentions.
The assembly approved a U.S.-initiated resolution on April 7 to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council by a vote of 93-24 with 58 abstentions. The vote was significantly lower than on two resolutions the assembly adopted in March demanding an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine, withdrawal of all Russian troops and protection for civilians. Both of those resolutions were approved by at least 140 nations.
After the General Assembly suspended Russia, its deputy ambassador Gennady Kuzmin told U.N. members that Russia had withdrawn from the Human Rights Council before the vote. Council spokesman Rolando Gomez said that by withdrawing, Russia avoided being deprived of observer status at the rights body.
Since its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia has lost its spot on multiple U.N. bodies, including the executive boards of UN Women and the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF, the Committee on Non-governmental Organizations and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. It was also suspended from the World Tourism Organization.