The world must stand with Ukraine against Russia to send an unequivocal message that such attacks against another sovereign nation will not be tolerated, US Secretary of State Antony Blinked told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.
“If we cannot come together now, when will we come together?” said Blinken, as the UNHRC opened its 49th session in Geneva on Monday.
He spoke in advance of anticipated votes at the UN General Assembly and at the UNHRC this week to condemn Russia’s invasion.
Blinken’s speech marked the return of the US as a voting member of the council’s 47-member body. US President Joe Biden had rejoined the council last year, after former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 to protest its bias against Israel.
The US became a voting member of the council only this year, casting its first vote on Monday to hold a special debate on Thursday. The Biden administration argued that it was better poised to fight such bias from within than from without.
“We will continue to counter anti-Israel bias and the unfair and disproportionate focus on Israel on the council,” Blinken said.
He also spoke against the council’s permanent probe of Israel through a commission of inquiry that is slated to deliver its first report this summer.
“The Commission of Inquiry and standing Agenda Item 7 are a stain on the Council’s credibility, and we strongly reject them,” Blinken said.
He also spoke against the Chinese genocide against “predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other minority groups,” and of his concern for the growing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
But the focus of his remarks was on Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“We must send a resolute and united message that President Putin should unconditionally stop this unprovoked attack... and immediately withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine,” Blinken said. “More than at any other point in recent history, the principles at the heart of this council’s work – and the entire United Nations – are being challenged.”
Russia, he charged, has “violating international law, flouting the core principles of international peace and security, and creating a human rights and humanitarian crisis.”
Blinken said that this was not the time for neutrality.
“Council members should stop using language implying that all sides bear equal responsibility for the unprovoked attack of one side,” he said. “This isn’t evenhanded. It’s wrong, and fails to place accountability where it belongs. We must reject Russia’s attempts to falsely justify this attack as a defense of human rights – misappropriating terms that we reserve for the worst atrocities and disrespecting every victim of those crimes. People in Ukraine and around the world are looking to us to stand up and stand together. We must not let them down.”