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Russia’s isolation over Ukraine war grows at UN rights body

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The U.N.’s top human rights body overwhelmingly approved a resolution Friday that aims to set up a three-member panel of experts to monitor human rights in Ukraine.

The decision demonstrates growing international unity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Moscow’s increasing international isolation.

Some 32 of the 47 member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council voted in favor of the resolution while 13 abstained. Only Russia and Eritrea voted against the resolution that was proposed by Western states and others who have spoken out against the invasion.

Several countries that had either openly or tacitly supported Moscow appeared to have backed off from offering that support.

China, Cuba and Venezuela abstained Friday, despite having joined Russia and Eritrea in voting down on Monday a proposal by Ukraine’s government to hold an “urgent debate” on the rights situation in Ukraine. The debate took place Thursday and culminated in Friday’s vote.

Mauritania, Senegal, Somalia, and the United Arab Emirates which abstained Monday supported the resolution on Friday.

During the debate, country after country spoke out against Russia’s invasion. Many Western envoys sported blue or yellow ties, scarves, jackets or ribbons on their lapels – honoring the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Even observer countries including Gambia and Malaysia also decried Russia’s actions.

Ukraine’s ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko was visibly moved by the result, telling delegates after the vote: “I thank all those who voted for the right course.”

Friday’s vote was an important bellwether of international sentiment about the invasion. It came two days after the U.N. General Assembly in New York voted 141-5, with 35 abstentions, to demand an immediate halt to Moscow’s attack on Ukraine in a non-binding vote.

The council’s resolution seeks the “immediate operationalization” of a three-person team of experts known as a Commission of Inquiry – the council’s most powerful tool of scrutiny. Its members are to be appointed by U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

The experts will be tasked to collect and analyze evidence that could be used by a court, such as the International Criminal Court, which has launched its own investigation over Russia’s invasion.

In another development aiming to boost accountability, the Ukrainian government and former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday called for the creation of a special criminal tribunal to prosecute Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies over the invasion of Ukraine.

Brown said the call for a body to investigate the “crime of aggression” was based on the tribunals that prosecuted senior Nazis after World War II.

Such a tribunal — whose creation remains uncertain — could help fill a legal gap and complement the ICC’s work. The Netherlands-based ICC can investigate crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes but Russia hasn’t signed up to an ICC statute under which countries pledge not to commit “crimes of aggression.”

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