(This March 29 story corrects 7th paragraph to add new comment from a U.N. spokesperson and remove reference to referral to U.N. office in Geneva)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A dozen members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee urged President Joe Biden’s administration to push for Russia’s removal from the United Nations Human Rights Council, citing its invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter dated Monday and made public on Tuesday, the eight Democrats and four Republicans asked the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, to introduce a resolution to remove Russia from the rights body, citing widespread casualties in Ukraine and the destruction of residential buildings, hospital and schools.
Support for Ukraine is one of the rare areas of bipartisan agreement in the bitterly divided U.S. Congress, which has approved billions of dollars in aide for the government in Kyiv.
“Swift action must be taken to show the world the United States and our allies will not stand for indiscriminate and unprovoked attacks on civilians and democracies. The time has come for Russia to no longer have a seat on the Council,” said the letter, led by the committee’s top Republican, Senator Jim Risch, and its Democratic chairman, Senator Bob Menendez.
In the letter, the senators said states engaging in a pattern of gross and systemic rights abuses can be removed by a two-thirds vote in the U.N. General Assembly.
“We implore you to introduce a resolution in the UN General Assembly to call for the removal of the Russian Federation from the UNHRC immediately,” they wrote.
Asked for comment, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York said, “As Secretary Blinken said, ‘One can reasonably ask whether a UN Member State that tries to take over another UN Member State – while committing horrific human rights abuses and causing massive humanitarian suffering – should be allowed to remain on this council.’”
Russia, which has called its actions since Feb. 24 a “special operation,” has denied targeting civilians in Ukraine.
Only one country has been suspended from the 47-member Geneva-based council: Libya. The North African country was suspended in 2011 because of violence against protesters by forces loyal to its then-leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Some senior officials addressing the council during a meeting earlier this month questioned Russia’s membership, but did not explicitly call for its suspension.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle, additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Stephen Coates and Jonathan Oatis)