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South Africa abstains from voting on Russia’s UN Human Rights Council suspension

President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 2022 Heads of Mission Conference (HoMC22), O R Tambo Building, Pretoria, South Africa, 7/04/2022 Photos: Katlholo Maifadi/DIRCO

Xolisa Mabhongo, South Africa’s deputy ambassador to the UN in New York, made clear that his government would stick to its neutral position on the war in Ukraine, implicitly refusing to identify Russia as the aggressor.

South Africa on Thursday once again abstained in a United Nations vote on the war in Ukraine, this time on a resolution in the General Assembly to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council because of its alleged atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. 

The resolution passed with 93 votes in favour, 58 abstentions and 24 votes against. 

It was prompted by reports and photos from Bucha, a suburb of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, of hundreds of civilians found dead in the streets and in mass graves after the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Several of the civilians appear to have been executed in cold blood, shot in their heads while their hands were tied together.

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Ukraine’s UN ambassador, Sergiy Kyslytsya, urged countries to support the resolution. The UN reported him as saying: “Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian army, serve as an example of how dramatically far the Russian Federation has gone from its initial declarations in the human rights domain. That is why this case is unique and today’s response is obvious and self-explanatory.” 

But Pretoria remained unmoved and Xolisa Mabhongo, South Africa’s deputy ambassador to the UN in New York, made clear that his government would stick to its neutral position on the war in Ukraine, implicitly refusing to identify Russia as the aggressor. 

He said South Africa was abstaining from the resolution because it was premature and prejudged the outcomes of an International Commission of Inquiry which the UN Human Rights Council had agreed to on 4 March, to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights, violations of international law and related crimes in Ukraine. 

Mabhongo also noted that UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which established the UN Human Rights Council, stressed “the importance of ensuring universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the consideration of human rights issues…

“Unfortunately, the resolution that we are considering will further divide and polarise the matter and the General Assembly, without following due process. 

“South Africa maintains that in considering the suspension of a member of the Human Rights Council, we must be consistent and not selective as this would undermine the credibility of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.”

Mabhongo also expressed South Africa’s deep concern about the war, repeated Pretoria’s call for a cessation of hostilities as a first step in responding to the humanitarian crisis and stressed that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy were the only paths to end the conflict. 

He said South Africa welcomed the efforts by Ukraine and Russia to hold talks without preconditions.

“The General Assembly must therefore encourage mediation and dialogue and adopt constructive outcomes leading to that end.”

Gennady Kuzmin, the deputy Russian ambassador to the UN, called for countries to “vote against the attempt by Western countries and their allies to destroy the existing human rights architecture”. DM



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All Comments 5

  • We, of the country of Mandela, and Bishop Tutu now have to hang our head in shame because our leaders cannot tell right from wrong and stand up for right.

  • Really????and you call yourself leaders….wonder how much of South African loot is tied up there.
    I am ashamed of rudderless politicians

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