SA abstains from vote to suspend Russia from UN Human Rights Council

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  • For the third time, South Africa abstained from voting in a UN resolution on the war in Ukraine.
  • The UN General Assembly voted on Thursday to suspend Russia's membership in the Human Rights Council.
  • South Africa called for an urgent cessation of hostilities between Ukraine and Russia.

South Africa abstained from voting in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

The UN General Assembly adopted the resolution on Thursday, with 93 countries in favour and 24 against. 

A total of 58 countries abstained, including South Africa.

Last month, South Africa also abstained from voting on a resolution that demanded Russia immediately withdraw from Ukraine

The government had urged South Africans "not to take sides" in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it emerged during a debate in the National Assembly.

READ | Diplomacy, dialogue way to respond to crisis in Ukraine, says SA’s ambassador to UN

On Thursday, the ambassador and deputy permanent representative of South Africa to the UN, Xolisa Mabhongo, said: "Unfortunately, the resolution we are considering will further divide and polarise the matter and the General Assembly without following due process."

Mabhongo maintained that, in considering the suspension of a member of the Human Rights Council, the decision must be consistent and not selective.

He feared the decision would undermine the credibility of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.

"South Africa is of the firm belief that the tabling of the resolution that we will consider today is premature and prejudges the outcomes of the Commission of Enquiry. 

"We must allow the commission to urgently undertake its mandate and report to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly on its outcomes."

Russia invading Ukraine 

He added: "South Africa is deeply concerned about the continuing conflict in Ukraine, the loss of lives and the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

"We reiterate our view that, as a matter of urgency, there must be a cessation of hostilities, which would be the first step in a comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis.

READ | 'My take on Russia's invasion of Ukraine is it should be condemned' - Kgalema Motlanthe

"South Africa stresses that dialogue, mediation and diplomacy are the only path to end the current conflict. Wars end when dialogues begin, and wars endure when there is no dialogue.

"In this regard, we welcome the efforts by Ukraine and Russia to hold talks without preconditions."

A Ukrainian serviceman holds a child crossing the
A Ukrainian serviceman holds a child crossing the Irpin river on an improvised path under a bridge.

Mabhongo said the General Assembly must encourage mediation and dialogue, and adopt constructive outcomes leading to that end.

He claimed that South Africa was deeply concerned about the reports of civilian casualties in Ukraine

"As the international community, we cannot be indifferent to the killing and suffering of civilians. The humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the ongoing military operations must be addressed. 

"There must be an urgent opening of humanitarian corridors and the provision of aid to the civilian population - which, as usual, bears the brunt of the suffering when violent confrontation breaks out," said Mabhongo.

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