The UN is imperfect and the war in Ukraine makes it noticeable (Opinion)

editor’s note: Frida Ghitis(@fridaghitis) former producer and correspondent for CNN, is a columnist on world affairs. She is a weekly opinion contributor for CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a columnist for the World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this comment belong solely to the author of it. See more opinions on CNN.

(CNN) — With every image of a downed civilian lies on the sidewalk from a Ukrainian city devastated by Russian occupation forces, with each interview of a grieving woman mourning her dead relatives at a graveside, the level of frustration rises around the world.

How can Russian President Vladimir Putin get away with brazenly storming a neighboring country, attacking non-combatants and killing thousands of innocents, while repeatedly claiming that his troops do not commit atrocities or target civilians? Can’t they stop it?

This is how the brutal images of Bucha are denied in Russia 3:23

The West, led by the United States and others NATO members, it has been arming Ukraine’s defenders and imposing harsh economic sanctions on Russia. But the new weapon of the world, metaphorically speaking, aims to isolate Russia in international organizations.

That is why, on Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the body in charge of the “promotion and protection of human rights throughout the world”. The vote was 93 in favour, 24 against and 58 abstentions. (Russia later said it was “withdrawing” of its own accord, but would continue to abide by its international human rights obligations.)

The fact that Russia held a prestigious seat on the Council at a time when it is massacring civilians and committing what many world leaders have considered war crimes shows how broken the UN system is. The fact that the United Nations General Assembly was able to issue a damning indictment by expelling Russia from the UNHRC it shows that, flawed as it is, the UN still provides a venue for the world’s outrage to be expressed.

But excluding Putin’s Russia from the Human Rights Council is a purely symbolic act. It won’t save a single life. Unless it becomes the first step in an effort to repair the architecture of international diplomatic institutions.

The failure of the UN has never been more evident than in this war. Russia, the author of continuous atrocities that shock our conscience, has the most powerful tool of international diplomacy: the veto power in the UN Security Council. No major action against the aggressor can be approved because Russia can just stop it.

Exasperation at the UN’s impotence was palpable when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the body on Tuesday, the day after visiting Bucha, the Kyiv suburb whose name is now synonymous with mass graves and the deaths of innocent Ukrainians. .

Zelensky described what he saw after Russia’s withdrawal: “They cut off limbs, cut throats… Women were raped and killed in front of their children.” (Russian spokesman denies these claims, calling them “unsubstantiated” and “a set up,” despite the fact that the horrors in Bucha were only discovered after the Russian occupation of the suburb ended and just as Human Rights Watch announced that it had documented allegations of war crimes there ).

“Where is the security that the Security Council must guarantee?” Zelensky demanded of his members, making the essentially impossible demand that Russia was expelled from the most important organ of the UN. “What is the purpose of our organization?” she asked an audience embarrassed by silence.

As Zelensky pointed out, Article 1 of Chapter 1 of the United Nations Charter declares that the purpose of the UN is the preservation of peace and security. In fact, the entire Charter looks like a plan to impeach Russia. Article 2, for example, obliges members to refrain from threatening the use of force against the territorial integrity of their neighbors.

Does Putin care about being expelled from the Human Rights Council or about members calling for Russia’s expulsion from the G20? It is not a big thing, said his misrepresenting spokesman. But history has shown that Putin is obsessed with Russia’s prestige as a world power, and membership in these organizations is a badge of honor.

After Russia illegally seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, the G8 expelled russia (making the group the G7). Once Donald Trump became president, tried repeatedly that the G7 readmit Putin, which caused serious friction with the other countries, which strongly rejected the idea. If Putin weren’t interested in rejoining the group, it’s hard to imagine Trump would have advocated for him, raising further questions about his relationship with Putin.

Before Thursday’s vote to suspend Russia from the Council, China’s ambassador warned that the move would set a dangerous precedent. We can only hope that he is right, and that the precedent is dangerous for the many tyrants whose representatives have paralyzed the agency’s mission, to the detriment of those who suffer from human rights violations around the world.

those who vote against expulsion of Russia appear to be a list of human rights violators. The list of countries that have sat on the Council also includes a shocking array of violators, which explains why the organization’s work seems like a satire on its mission.

Among those chosen in recent years to defend human rights is not only Russia, but also China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia Y Venezuela, among others. The parody extends to other organizations. North Korea was elected to chair a UN disarmament forum; Iran for the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

Just as Russia’s presence on the Security Council helps protect it from the UN, violators can protect themselves and each other at the Human Rights Council. Since its founding, has only created a commission research on North Korea and a handful of other countries. In particular, there have been none on China, Iran, or the many other countries accused of chronic human rights abuses. Not even one about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

A few weeks ago established a over Ukraine, eight years after Russia invaded Crimea and fueled a separatist war in eastern Ukraine, and decades after Putin’s actions in Chechnya and against his opponents at home. Meanwhile, they have carried out nine inquiries or investigations mandated by the Council on Israel, a country that is far from perfect, but with a democratically elected government, hardly deserves this level of critical attention relative to the rest of the world.

Arguably, most countries, including the United States, have committed moral transgressions. Few, if any, are free from blemish. That makes it harder for them to assert a moral high ground, leaving the way clear for the worst offenders.

But it is not the first time that the international community has put an end to Moscow’s stay in the UNHRC. In 2016, amid the brutal Russian bombing of Aleppo in Syria, Russia tried to win re-election to the UNHRC. In one shocking blow, was blocked. But it was not long before the Moscow regime itself, a chronic violator of human rights, was elected again; and now suspended.

So will anything change now?

It’s hard to be optimistic. But there is a widespread feeling that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is reshaping the world order. If ever there was a time to rethink the structure of international institutions, and develop a means of making respect for basic norms a condition for legitimacy and influence within those institutions, it is now.

After all, the mass graves in the Ukraine, the new orphans and widows, and the horrors we are likely to discover soon are proof that the current system has failed in its primary mission.

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