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Russia ousted from U.N. Human Rights Council amid allegations of Syrian war crimes

By Daniel Uria
Russia ousted from U.N. Human Rights Council amid allegations of Syrian war crimes
Russian ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin (L) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov talk during the Security Council Meeting held during the 70th session of the General Debate of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN in New York City on September 30, 2015. Russia lost its seat Eastern Europe on the United Nations Human Rights Council in a vote Friday losing by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary. Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo

UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Russia lost its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council by a narrow margin following a vote on Friday.

Russia received a total of 112 votes to remain as one of two Eastern European seats on the council devoted to human rights, losing by two votes to Croatia and by 32 votes to Hungary, according to the New York Times.

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The vote represented the first time a permanent member had lost its seat on the 47 member U.N. Security Council since it was established in 2006.

The United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and China were all re-elected to their seats on the council essentially unopposed.

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New Zealand envoy Gerard van Bohemen said there was a "small intake of air" followed the announcement Russia had lost its seat. He said the country's conduct in Syria including the massive aerial bombing assault on Aleppo "must have played a part."

Multiple human rights groups protested Russia's bid to remain on the council due to its actions during the Syrian conflict which has killed at least 400,000 people, according to CNN.

Also, the refusal of government in Moscow to accept security council resolutions to seek an end to the Syriam conflict has possibly factored in to the lack of UN support for Russia, officials said.

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"The non-election of Russia shows that the nations of the world can reject gross abusers if they so choose," U.N. watchdog group, UN Watch, said after the vote.

"We need a break," Russian ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin said in response to questions about the influence Russia's actions in Syria had on the vote.

The United States experienced a similar scenario in 2001 when it lost its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which was later replaced by the council. The United States regained its position the next year.

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Despite Russia losing its seat, human rights activists were troubled by the re-election of Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba. UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer said it "casts a shadow upon the reputation of the United Nations."

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