Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
Russia suspended from UN Human Rights Council over war
In a rare move, the U.N. General Assembly voted 93-24 on Thursday to suspend Russia’s membership on the U.N. Human Rights Council over Moscow’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights” and violations of international law committed against Ukraine. Russia said after the vote that it was withdrawing from the body on its own. Its three-year term was due to expire December 31, 2023.
Russia Suspended from UN Human Rights Body
VOA spoke to U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield right after the vote. Watch the full interview here:
Ukrainian president scolds UN Security Council for inaction
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy admonished the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for its inaction in stopping Russia’s war against his country and called for Moscow to face accountability for crimes it has carried out there. “We are dealing with a state that is turning the U.N. Security Council veto into the right to die,” Zelenskyy said of Russia, which has used its veto to block any action in the council.
Ukraine’s Zelenskyy Chides UN Security Council for Lack of Action
UN gathering evidence of possible war crimes in Bucha
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said Tuesday that it was gathering evidence of possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. Shocking images of civilians lying dead on the town’s streets emerged after Russia troops withdrew from the area last weekend. Under international law, the deliberate killing of civilians is a war crime.
UN Rights Office Gathering Evidence of Possible War Crimes in Bucha, Ukraine
UN seeks access to Mali massacre site
The head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday he welcomed the Malian authorities’ opening of an investigation into an alleged massacre of hundreds of civilians by government troops and suspected Russian mercenaries in the village of Moura in late March, but that the U.N. mission, MINUSMA, must also have access to the site. Human rights groups have called for an independent investigation.
Rights Groups Call for Investigation into Mali Killings
— The International Committee of the Red Cross said Wednesday that it had successfully led a convoy of buses and private cars carrying more than 500 people who fled from the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol to the safer location of Zaporizhzhia. Thousands more civilians remain trapped in Mariupol. The mayor said this week that at least 5,000 civilians had been killed during the Russian siege of the city.
— The United Nations warned Friday that as many as 6 million Somalis could face the risk of famine if the rainy season failed as expected and global food prices continued to rise. Three poor consecutive rainy seasons have deepened the country’s drought, plunging millions of people to crisis levels of food insecurity.
— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed news Wednesday that a convoy carrying food aid and fuel had reached northern Ethiopia’s Tigray and Afar regions following the declaration of a humanitarian truce. But on Friday, the U.N. said it had not been able to get any further aid into Tigray. The International Committee of the Red Cross also was able to get a convoy carrying medical assistance, food and water treatment supplies into Afar last Saturday. It was the group’s first road convoy to reach the region in six months.
— The World Health Organization said Thursday that the number of COVID-19 cases in Africa could be 97% higher than confirmed reported cases. WHO regional director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said two-thirds of Africans might have been infected. WHO has confirmed 11.6 million cases of COVID-19 on the continent, including more than 250,000 deaths. The new data suggests the actual numbers are much higher.
Some good news
The first nationwide truce in Yemen in six years went into effect on Saturday and appeared to be largely holding. U.N. envoy Hans Grundberg said Thursday that there had been a “significant reduction of violence,” but pockets of fighting continued, particularly around the contested city of Marib. The Yemeni government also released several fuel ships to dock in Houthi-held Hodeida port, which will help ease fuel shortages. Preparations were also underway for the first commercial flight to take off from Houthi-controlled Sanaa airport. The truce can be renewed beyond the initial two-month period if parties agree.
Quote of note
“Ukraine needs peace. We need peace. Europe needs peace. The world needs peace.”
— Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, appealing to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to stop the war in his country