Singapore abstains from vote to suspend Russia from UN human rights body, urges support for inquiry on violations in Ukraine
SINGAPORE: Singapore has called for all parties to cooperate with an independent commission of inquiry on alleged human rights violations in Ukraine, adding that is important for the commission to be given full and unhindered access to do its work.
This came after it abstained from a vote to suspend Russia from the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council on Thursday (Apr 7).
In response to media queries on Friday evening, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said: “Singapore abstained from the vote as we await the findings of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry investigating alleged violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Ukraine."
The Commission was mandated by Human Rights Council Resolution 49/1 on the “Situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression”, which was adopted on Mar 4 this year. MFA reiterated that Singapore was a co-sponsor of this resolution.
“We strongly condemn any violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and there must be accountability. We hence urge all parties to cooperate with the Commission, and allow it full and unhindered access so that it can gather evidence and conduct its work,” said MFA.
“Our abstention on this particular resolution is consistent with our longstanding and steadfast support for the rules-based multilateral system and the due application of its mechanisms.”
The UN General Assembly had suspended Russia from the Human Rights Council over reports of "gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights" in Ukraine, prompting Moscow to announce it was quitting the body.
The United States-led push garnered 93 votes in favour, while 24 countries voted no and 58 countries abstained, including Singapore.
A two-thirds majority of voting members in the 193-member General Assembly in New York - abstentions do not count - was needed to suspend Russia from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
Taking the floor to explain Singapore’s abstention, Ms Tang Jo-Phie, the country’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said on Thursday that Singapore condemns Russia's invasion of Ukraine and continuing attacks on Ukrainian cities, civilians, and civilian infrastructure in the strongest possible terms.
“We reiterate our full support for the sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” she stated.
She added that Singapore’s position on this has been clear and consistent from the beginning of the conflict.
This is why it had "co-sponsored and voted in support of UN General Assembly Resolution ES-11/1 on the Aggression against Ukraine, and Resolution ES-11/2 on the Humanitarian Consequences of the Aggression against Ukraine", she said.
Singapore also co-sponsored the Human Rights Council Resolution 49/1 on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine Stemming from the Russian Aggression, she added.
In her speech, Ms Tang also said: “Singapore is gravely concerned and distressed by the latest reports and images from Bucha and other Ukrainian towns of high civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure.”
“We strongly condemn any violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. In this regard, we urge the full and urgent implementation of ES-11/1, ES-11/2, and HRC Resolution 49/1.”
She said that Singapore notes the establishment of an independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Ukraine, adding that the country awaits the completion of the commission’s work and its findings.
“There must be accountability for any gross and systematic human rights violations that have taken place in the conflict in Ukraine,” she said.
“We urge all parties to cooperate with the commission’s work and allow full and unhindered access for the commission to gather evidence and conduct its work.”
She added: “We must spare no effort to protect the civilian population in Ukraine, and to ensure safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need.”
“We continue to call on the Russian Federation to cease its offensive military operations immediately, to remain engaged in meaningful negotiations with Ukraine, and to work towards a peaceful settlement in accordance with the UN Charter and international law.”
Singapore has announced financial measures targeted at designated Russian banks, entities and activities in Russia, as well as fundraising activities benefiting the Russian government.
Wrapping up his visit to the US last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore took a strong stand against Russia’s invasion because it has chosen to uphold a key principle that corresponds to its long-term national interest – that is, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries.
“We have chosen principles and we uphold principles which correspond to our long-term national interests, and we uphold them consistently,” said Mr Lee.
Other countries that abstained included India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia. Russia, China and Vietnam were among those that voted against.
In explaining why it had abstained from the vote, the Malaysian delegation to the UN said: “A critical decision such as the suspension of a member of the Human Rights Council must not be made in haste and should not prejudge the outcome of such investigations.”
"A decision on such an important matter must be accorded the same equal treatment and due processes as in the past in the full spirit and letter of resolution 60/251 (on the establishment of the Human Rights Council)."