A day after abstentions, Ukraine changes mind on UN Rights Council vote on Xinjiang abuses

Countries on the 47-member council in Geneva, in a moment of knife-edge drama, voted 19-17 against holding a debate on human rights in Xinjiang, with 11 nations abstaining.

Published: 07th October 2022 07:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 07th October 2022 08:09 PM   |  A+A-

Protesters hold a demonstration against the human rights violation of Muslims in China's  Xinjiang. (Photo| AFP)

In this file image, protesters hold a demonstration against the human rights violation of Muslims in China's Xinjiang. (Photo| AFP)


GENEVA: Ukraine indicated Friday it had changed its mind on a historic vote a day earlier that saw the UN Human Rights Council refuse to debate violations in China's Xinjiang region.

Western nations suffered a heavy defeat at the UN top rights body on Thursday when they failed to get enough votes to pass a first-ever attempted resolution targeting China.

The draft text, presented by the United States and a number of other Western countries, had merely asked the council to debate a UN report, citing possible crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the far-western Xinjiang region.

But in a moment of knife-edge drama, countries on the 47-member council in Geneva voted 19-17 against holding a debate on human rights in Xinjiang, with 11 nations abstaining.

Following an intense lobbying campaign by Beijing, many of the votes against and abstentions (choosing not to vote) did not come as a huge surprise.

However, the decision by conflict-torn Ukraine, which relies heavily on Western backing as it battles Russia's invasion, to abstain in the vote caught some off guard.

And Ukraine itself appears to have had second thoughts.

In an unusual move, Ukrainian ambassador Yevheniia Filipenko took the floor on Friday asking that the "record of the proceedings reflect our position in favour of the adoption of the mentioned decision."

The president of the council, Federico Villegas of Argentina, said the council would "take note of your statement", but stressed that "in accordance with the rules and practices the result of the vote ... will remain as it was announced yesterday."

Even if the result had shifted to reflect the changed vote, the resolution on China would still have failed, by one vote.

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At the 47-member state Human Rights Council on Thursday, 17 countries voted in favor, 19 were against, and 11 abstained in a vote to hold a debate on Xinjiang at its next session in March.

The vote amounted to a test of political and diplomatic clout between the West and Beijing, and would have marked the first time that China’s record on human rights would merit a specific agenda item at the council.

India abstained from voting. 

However, on Friday, the country said rights of people in China's Xinjiang region should be "respected and guaranteed" but noted that its decision to abstain from a resolution on the concerns at the UN human rights commission was in line with the practice of not voting on country-specific resolutions.

It is for the first time that India clearly called for respecting the human rights of the people of Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region.

According to reports, China locked down “no” votes among its usual allies, plus many African countries and Persian Gulf states Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Somalia was the only African country, and only member state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to vote “yes.”

Turkey is in the OIC, but doesn’t have a council seat right now. Argentina, Brazil, India, Malaysia, Mexico and Ukraine were among countries that abstained.

(With inputs from Associated Press)

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