Russia narrowly loses Human Rights Council membership

Russia Ambassador Vitaly Churkin vetoes a draft resolution that demands an immediate end to air strikes and military flights over Syria's Aleppo city, at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, U.S., October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz - RTSRE5B

Russia Ambassador Vitaly Churkin vetoes a U.N. draft resolution that demands an immediate end to airstrikes and military flights over Aleppo on Oct. 8, 2016. Photo by REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Russia failed to win re-election to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council Friday by two votes.

The country competed against Hungary and Croatia for a limited number of spots that represent Eastern Europe on the broader council.

In the 193-member general assembly, 144 votes went to Hungary, 114 to Croatia, and 112 to Russia.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. ambassador, downplayed the loss.

“It was a very close vote and very good countries competing, Croatia, Hungary,” Churkin said, according to the Associated Press. “They are fortunate because of their size, they are not exposed to the winds of international diplomacy. Russia is very exposed. We’ve been on council a number of years, I’m sure next time we’ll get in.”

Given the council’s mission to promote and protect human rights worldwide, Human Rights Watch and others have questioned whether Russia’s continued membership was appropriate, given their military role in Syria’s civil war.

The Human Rights Council has 47 member countries who come up for re-election on staggered terms.

Saudi Arabia, also up for re-election in 2016, has been accused of hypocrisy on human rights issues, but successfully maintained its seat on the council.

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