General assembly fails to vote for Russia to be one of 14 new members after campaign by rights groups over its bombing of Syria

Russia has lost its bid to become a member of the UNs human rights council, in a defeat that reflects the diplomatic cost of its war in Syria.

Russia was beaten on Friday by Hungary and Croatia in the rivalry for two seats on the council was allocated to eastern European states.

It was the first time one of the permanent five members of the security council had failed to get elected to the HRC since its formation ten years ago, and followed a campaign by human rights groups opposing Russian membership because of its role in the bombing of Syrian cities, eastern Aleppo in particular.

They bomb a hospital one day, they run for the Human Right Council the next. And they wonder why they missed the cut, a western diplomat said.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian envoy, shrugged off the rebuff, saying the countries who beat Russia are not as exposed to the winds of international diplomacy.

Russia is quite uncovered, Churkin said.

Human rights groups also campaigned against Saudi Arabia for the high civilian death toll of its bombing campaign in Yemen, but the kingdom won one of the four seats reserved for the Asia-Pacific region.

The 193 -member general assembly on Friday elected 14 members to the 47 -nation council, the UNs main body charged with promoting and protecting human rights.

Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, the UK and the US were also elected to the council.

At the same time as Russia suffered its diplomatic setback, the Kremlin announced that chairperson Vladimir Putin had turned down the Russian militarys demand to resume bombing of Aleppo, to keep open humanitarian corridors for rebels and civilians to leave the city.

In repudiating Russias bid for re-election to the Human Rights Council, UN member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much inhumanity in Syria. It also shows how important it is to have competitive slates in UN elections, Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said.

Countries should have a chance to reject those whose candidacies are so severely compromised, as they did today. We have already said that Saudi Arabia, which was re-elected without rivalry, doesnt belong on the council in light of its indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Yemen. Well be keeping all members rights records under the microscope while theyre on the council. Next year, UN member states should make sure that all regional groups have real rivalry so no one is guaranteed victory, he said.

Russia currently holds the presidency of the UN security council but has alienated many UN member states by its support for the Syrian regimes airstrikes against rebel-held cities, and by its verbal assaults on UN officials who had criticised the airstrikes. On Thursday, Churkin shrugged off the findings of a UN investigation that the Syrian regime had utilized chemical weapons, telling the regime itself should have its own enquiry.

Russia deserves this defeat, but it will merely increase Moscows contempt for the UN, said Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the European Council for Foreign Relations. The Russians only really care about the security council anyway, and they may well respond by stirring up more difficulty there over Syria or other crises.

In 2001, the US was voted off the HRCs predecessor, the UN Human Right Commission, in a gesture of disapproval over the George Bush administrations unilateralist leanings.

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